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A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward

We live in unprecedented times due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the landscape changes from moment to moment.   Along with health concerns, there are major economic issues at play and many individuals and businesses are in need of assistance.  Schools are closed, a host of businesses are temporarily shuttered or operating with reduced staff, and we will be dealing with the fallout for some time.

With many businesses closing temporarily due to the virus a number of individuals are seeking unemployment insurance.  The good news, New York State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus closures or quarantines.

If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name. If your last name starts with A – F, file your claim on Monday. For last names starting with G – N, file your claim Tuesday. For last names starting with O – Z, file your claim on Wednesday. If you missed your filing day, file your claim on Thursday or Friday. Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed.

Information regarding unemployment insurance is available online at https://www.labor.ny.gov/home/ or by calling 1-888-469-7365.  Due to enormous volume, the systems are slow so expect delays when trying to access unemployment benefits.

Business owners are also in need of assistance.  Many companies work on a very small margin, to begin with, and the loss of business they are currently enduring can be crippling.

Already, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Carranza has approved a statewide disaster declaration for New York.  Eligible small businesses may now apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).  The loans are working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.  Businesses can take advantage of free assistance offered by SBA’s network of resource partners for help with preparing their loan applications.

SBA information is available online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.  For help preparing an application, businesses can go to  www.sba.gov/local-assistance.

Additionally, I am joining with my Senate Republican colleagues in calling on the governor to take a wide range of immediate bipartisan steps to help our small businesses including:

  • Extend by 90 days the payment of monthly sales tax;
  • Make available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business;
  • Eliminate penalties for late payments of business and property taxes;
  • Extend the cure period for various violations facing businesses during the crisis;
  • Expand STAR for small businesses and accelerate tax cuts for small businesses;
  • Have ESD create a hotline to connect businesses to capital and interim assistance;
  • Issue Economic Injury Disaster Declaration — allows small businesses access to SBA (small business administration);
  • Call upon private industry to redirect existing resources to develop necessary products to fight the virus (masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators, etc.); and
  • Reimburse for additional costs associated with the expansion of paid sick/family leave.

We can also take steps to help lower taxes including:

  • Accelerate the Middle-Class Tax Cuts to provide relief to individuals and small businesses;
  • Provide a tax credit for paying workers who aren’t working — 25% credit for additional sick time or any sick leave, vacation, or furlough that the business was not paying before.
  • Additional measures focusing on higher education, consumer protection, and insurance are also included.

Don’t forget, for the most up to date health information, visit the special Coronavirus section of the New York State Department of Health website at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home.