A bill meant to aid people applying for unemployment by providing them with information for housing, food and utility assistance was signed into law this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The legislation comes as unemployment in New York last month stood above 7%, and after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown to halt the spread of the virus led to levels of jobless claims not seen in decades.
The new law will require the Department of Labor to provide people filing for unemployment or certifying their claims with additional information on support for mortgage, rental, food and utility bills. The department's web portal will include additional information on state assistance, including information on programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and the Home Energy Assistance Program as well as federal mortgage relief.
"Instead of making New Yorkers scour the internet for the range of state programs that provide these essentials, we need to make it easier for people to access the full scope of funding available to them in one easily accessible spot,” said Sen. Michelle Hinchey, the sponsor of the bill in her chamber. “This legislation ensures that any New Yorker who files an unemployment claim will also have the opportunity to review information on a variety of other state funding programs that can help with rent, mortgage, food, and utilities — right there on the DOL’s unemployment portal."
New York's unemployment picture has improved since the worst of the pandemic a year ago, though the recovery has been uneven, with jobless claims still above 10% in New York City.
"The pandemic has placed New Yorkers in difficult positions, many relying on unemployment and other state programs for assistance for the first time," said Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, the measure's Assembly sponsor. "My office assisted hundreds of people navigating the unemployment system, and many of them would benefit from other state programs. Therefore, assisting them with additional information on programs such as HEAP, SNAP, and ERAP, can help New Yorkers stay warm, fed, and in their homes."