NYS Legislature takes step towards helping parents who've left the workforce during COVID-19

Posted at 5:35 AM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 05:35:53-04

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that would extend unemployment insurance eligibility to parents who were forced to leave the workforce to care for their children during the pandemic.

Currently, New York State unemployment insurance claimants who voluntarily leave the workforce without good cause are ineligible for benefits.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a devastating toll on New York’s working families," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "Too many parents and guardians – and women especially – have been forced to leave the workforce because they could not find child care."

Over the last year, more than two million working mothers have had to leave their jobs because of the pandemic.

Heastie, and Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford, who sponsored the bill, say the unemployment insurance appeal board and the courts have been inconsistent in their decisions on whether the need to provide child care constitutes a good cause; some rulings denied benefits, and others ruled in favor of the claimants.

The new legislation clarifies that meeting child care obligations constitutes a "compelling family reason" to leave the workforce, therefore qualifying those parents who quit their jobs to take care of their children for unemployment insurance benefits.

The New York State Senate will now take up the legislation. An earlier version of the bill passed the Senate on March 9.