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How President Biden's unemployment insurance comments could impact New Yorkers

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Posted at 3:55 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 19:28:13-04

President Joe Biden’s message on Monday, indicating those who are unemployed must take a job or lose their unemployment benefits, isn’t new for New Yorkers.

“That’s probably President Biden’s talking point,” said Labor and Employment Attorney Robert Boreanaz. “In New York, people who are on unemployment could not refuse work to them unless they have good cause,” he explained.

And, there wasn’t a moratorium for that law.

But, during the pandemic, Boreanaz said interpreting the law was relaxed.

For example, during the pandemic, if you were laid off because of COVID-19, you weren’t required to actively pursue other job opportunities.

“They did modify it in that regard where traditionally you would have to show you were trying to find other work,” explained Buffalo labor and employment attorney Kevin Wicka. Wicka is partner at the Tarantino Law Firm.

Currently, unemployed New Yorkers can receive up to $504 in unemployment benefits from the state and an additional $300 a week in federal funding through September.

Demone Smith is the executive director of the Buffalo Employment Training Center. It is the federal one stop shop for all things job related—including helping those who are unemployed find a job. He said he’s seeing wage increases to compete with unemployment benefits.

“People are looking for jobs. It just has to make economical sense for them.”

Smith said Biden’s comments are a possible indication that the $300 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will not be extended past September.

Labor lawyers like Boreanaz believe New York will likely become more firm with unemployment benefits following the President’s message.

“We’re coming out of the pandemic and I would expect N.Y.S. to interpret unemployment along the normal lines.”

According to the New York State Department of Labor, it never waived or relaxed any work search requirement. A spokeswoman for the department said “unemployed New Yorkers are required to search for work. In fact, New York State regulations require claimants to document their work search efforts and submit proof of them if the NYS DOL asks for it. According to the regulations, if you they do not search for work, document their work search, and submit proof if asked, they could lose their benefits and have to pay back benefits they received.”