New York State Responds to Rising Unemployment Numbers in the Finger Lakes Region
Thousands of Dollars in Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits, Training Grants, Layoff Aversion Programs Available for Businesses
Rochester, NY (July 16, 2009) - State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith and Empire State Development Chairman & CEO designate Dennis Mullen today outlined a wide range of initiatives administered by the NYS Department of Labor designed to help businesses in the Finger Lakes Region weather the current recession. These include federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) for new hires, training programs and an initiative that helps companies avoid potential layoffs. In the Rochester area, the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in June 2009, compared with 7.7 percent in May 2009 and 5.3 percent in June 2008 (not seasonally adjusted). “As Governor Paterson often says, we are a state rich with resources, the most impressive of which is our human capital,” said Commissioner Smith. “We need to invest in that capital here in the Finger Lakes Region, and let it grow. That is the ultimate goal of these initiatives, funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
“With unemployment steadily rising, it becomes increasingly important to support workforce and business development initiatives across New York State,” said Dennis M. Mullen, Chairman & CEO designate, Empire State Development. “ESD provides many services and programs to businesses that are designed to strengthen a business’ competitiveness and to ensure our State’s workforce remains one of the most productive and diverse in the country. During these challenging economic times, we will work to fully utilize the competitive resources already available to New York that set us apart from other states, such as access to water and an international border and a highly educated workforce.”
Businesses in the Finger Lakes Region that are hiring are encouraged to take advantage of federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) administered by the Department of Labor. These credits, which can amount to thousands of dollars for each new hire, are available for any business that hires WOTC-eligible individuals, including: long-term Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients; TANF recipients; veterans (eligibility criteria for veterans has expanded under the federal stimulus package); ex-felons; summer youth (eligibility criteria for youth has expanded under the federal stimulus package); vocational rehabilitation referrals; 18 to 39 year-old food stamp recipients; Supplemental Security Income Recipients; and individuals living in designated zones across the state. Businesses in the Finger Lakes Region interested in WOTC should call 1-888-4-NYSDOL.
The State officials also encouraged Finger Lakes Region businesses to tap into the Labor Department’s Building Skills in New York State (BUSINYS) program and upgrade the skills of their incumbent workers. Under this $5 million training program, funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, businesses with four or more workers are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 in worker training funds from the Department of Labor.
The purpose of the BUSINYS initiative is to ensure that the skills of workers do not deteriorate or become “stale” in an ever-more competitive and technologically complex global economy. Once awards are made to businesses in the Finger Lakes Region, incumbent workers will be trained in specific occupational skills needed by that business or industry. Eventually, this can lead to potential career growth and increased wages.
In order to be considered for an award, an applicant must:
Businesses have until July 20, 2009 to apply for the BUSINYS training program. There is no minimum award amount. Contracts will be awarded for a period of up to six months. For more information or to download an application, visit the Labor Department’s homepage at www.labor.ny.gov.
Officials also called upon businesses in the region that are considering laying off workers to look into the Labor Department’s Shared Work Program. Shared Work provides employers an alternative to layoffs as they face a temporary decline in business. Rather than lay off a percentage of workers to cut costs, an employer can use this program to reduce the hours of all or a particular group of employees. In turn, employees can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits to compensate for their lost wages. Under the Shared Work program, participating employees do not see a reduction in their health insurance, retirement, vacation pay, or other fringe benefits.
In 2008, there were 67 companies and 2,947 workers in the Shared Work program in the Finger Lakes Region. Statewide, 462 companies and 14,775 workers participated in the program during that year. From January through May 2009, there were 231 companies and 6,702 workers participating in the Shared Work program in the Finger Lakes Region. During this same time period, 1,317 companies and 31,446 workers participated in the program statewide.
Businesses interested in applying for the Shared Work program can call (518) 457-5807.
To find out more about the Department of Labor and its services for businesses and workers, please visit www.labor.ny.gov.
To find out more about Empire State Development and its services for businesses and workers, please visit www.empire.state.ny.us.