Labor Seal NYS Department of Labor                          

Contact Leo Rosales Cell: 518-281-6167 Office: 518-457-5519 Email: leo.rosales@labor.ny.gov www.labor.ny.gov
NYS LABOR DEPARTMENT URGES FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ADMINISTRATION TO SPEED ONSET OF EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS
Extended Unemployment Insurance Benefits Needed for More Than 68,000 New Yorkers

Albany, NY (February 03, 2009) - State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith has asked the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to prevent an extra one-week delay in the onset of a second tier of emergency unemployment insurance benefits. The second tier emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program will provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to individuals, on top of 26 weeks of regular unemployment insurance benefits and 20 weeks of EUC benefits that were available under the first tier of the program. It is estimated that more than 68,000 New Yorkers exhausted the current extended benefit program as of January 18, 2009 and will be eligible for the second tier of EUC benefits.

Commissioner Smith also sent a letter to New York's congressional leadership requesting assistance in this appeal to the ETA as well as a legislative review of an additional three-week statutory delay in paying EUC benefits. The three-week delay is mandated in extended benefits program legislation enacted in 1970 and relates to the need to collect state-by-state data to determine if thresholds for triggering extended benefits have been met. However, Commissioner Smith’s letter notes that modern technology, which makes it possible to compile state unemployment data much more quickly than in 1970, should negate the need for the three-week delay in triggering emergency unemployment insurance benefits for workers. The ETA must be permitted to make immediate determinations to trigger such benefits so they can be delivered to the unemployed as quickly as possible.

New York State reached the threshold required to become eligible for the second tier of EUC benefits when the state’s three-month average total unemployment rate for October, November and December 2008 rose above 6%.

Extended benefits cannot begin until the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics officially publishes state unemployment data. Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the presidential inauguration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its data four days later than usual, causing an additional full-week delay in the release of these monies.

This additional one-week delay, coupled with the statutory delay, results in a four-week gap in benefits for workers who have already exhausted the first tier of EUC benefits – and the second-tier of EUC benefits will not be retroactive.

“The BLS’s decision to lag its official publication of state unemployment rates should not affect New York families,” said Commissioner Smith. “The circumstance is no different than one we would face if the BLS was unable to publish its data due to a computer malfunction, a weather-related delay or any other situation. We urge the ETA and the BLS to address their delayed publication schedule so that claimants do not experience a devastating, extra one-week delay in a safety net payment that is intended to help them cover basic expenses such as food, housing, health care, heat and other utilities.”

If the delay is not addressed, the first date claimants may certify for the second tier of EUC is February 22, 2009. Those affected by the delay do not have to file a new claim or speak to a call center agent, but can continue to claim weekly benefits beginning on this date. Individuals are encouraged to check the Department of Labor’s web site at www.labor.ny.gov for current information regarding extended unemployment insurance benefits, eligibility rules and instructions on how to apply.