Assemblywoman Buttenschon Attends Public Hearing on COVID-19’s Impact on the Workforce

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica/Rome) announced that she joined the State Legislature’s joint public hearing held earlier today to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce and the effectiveness of the state’s response.

“From the millions of hardworking New Yorkers who are out of a job and struggling to make ends meet to the brave essential workers and those returning to work who fear for their health, the coronavirus pandemic has put an enormous strain on our state’s workforce and employers,” Buttenschon said. “We need to ensure the policies and measures we’ve put forth provide the financial relief and assistance that residents need during these trying times, as well as use what we’ve learned to make our workplaces safer and ensure our businesses remain successful. I want to thank all of those who participated in this hearing and provided insight into how we can better help our communities forge a path toward a brighter future.”

Today’s hearing allowed lawmakers to receive input from community stakeholders about the state’s efforts to protect and support the workforce during the pandemic. This includes the handling of unemployment benefits and insurance, workplace safety standards and the effectiveness of stimulus programs, including the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP), in keeping workers employed.

During the public hearing, Buttenschon raised questions about the state Department of Labor’s (DOL) unemployment benefits portal and called for improvements to be made regarding the “one-way communication” issue her office has been experiencing when attempting to reach out to DOL staff. Hundreds of constituents have reached out to Buttenschon’s office with questions regarding long wait times for their claims to be processed.

“My office is here and eager to help our community members access the services and benefits they need, which is why I’m asking that the DOL works with members’ offices so we can better help constituents and answer their questions throughout this process. Hundreds of individuals in the district have reached out to my office with concerns about the length of their unemployment application process, a lack of promised retroactive payments being paid out, and issues with cases where the constituent went back to work only to be laid off again within weeks. A growing issue is a concern of fraud from businesses who see unemployment applications for individuals who never worked at their companies to individuals receiving unemployment confirmations, but who had never submitted unemployment applications in the first place,” Buttenschon said.