Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Groups renew call for NYS to expand unemployment insurance

This slide is from the Strengthening Upstate Economies" presentation Jan. 11, 2024.
Fund Excluded Workers Coalition
This slide is from the Strengthening Upstate Economies" presentation Jan. 11, 2024.

A number of organizations are calling on the state legislature to pass measures that would put $500 million into a program that would help workers who lose their job and don’t qualify for typical unemployment insurance. The idea is that the state unemployment bridge program would pay $1,200 a month for someone who qualifies for the program. Cornell University Professor Russell Weaver says this could help over 750,000 self-employed or agricultural workers. Using the pandemic as a guide, Weaver says an economic downturn could have devastating impacts on workers and local economies.

“In the event of a large scale economic shock, these are people who are at risk of losing their jobs, losing their sources of income," Weaver said. "Because these tend to be…at least these top jobs… tend to be at the lower wage side of the pay spectrum, that is a devastating consequence for our neighbors, our friends and the folks that are living around us and could certainly use the extra support.”

Another supporter is Emma Kreyche of the Workers Justice Center of New York. She notes that currently when these workers need help, they have to rely on charitable assistance.

“However, it’s not enough to meet the need," Kreyche said. "The unemployment crisis has passed, when we look back at the pandemic, but the breadlines are just as long as before.  So I just want to acknowledge how much of a strain that our systemic failures are putting on our charitable organizations locally.”

To pay for it, supporters are pushing a controversial Digital Ad Tax. In New York, it would be a 7-percent tax on digital advertising, and it would only apply to those companies who make over $100 million in the state. Supporters point to the billions these companies make from consumers as justification for the tax. But opponents say it would raise prices for businesses and consumers.

Bob Beck, a veteran media professional, currently serves as a part-time editor/host at WAER Public Radio and an adjunct professor at Syracuse University. Beck retired as News Director at Wyoming Public Radio in 2022 after 34 years. During his time, Beck won 5 regional Edward R. Murrow awards and 5 Public Media Journalists Association awards for reporting. He also won 11 PMJA awards for the news and public affairs program Open Spaces. He was awarded the Wyoming School Bell award for education reporting and was part of two Emmy Award winning television productions. You can find him on X under the name @butterbob.