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More than 110,000 Suffolk residents were unemployed in the month of July, according to data released last week by the New York State Department of Labor. Suffolk’s insured unemployment rate was 13.6% in July, more than a point higher than it was in June, according to the data.

The insured unemployment rate in Riverhead Town was 12.4%, the second-lowest in the county. By contrast, unemployment in Riverhead was 3.6% in July 2019, when the county’s unemployment rate was 4%.

The unemployment rate statewide in July was 16%, with the rate topping 20% in three of New York City’s five counties.

Weekly initial jobless benefits claims fell by 130,000 to a seasonally adjusted 881,000, for the week ended Aug. 29, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Approximately 13.3 million people were receiving regular state unemployment benefits in the week ended Aug. 22, according to the federal labor agency. The pandemic unemployment assistance program, which was created in March and covers gig workers, self-employed individuals and people with special circumstances, such as being unable to work due to lack of child care, paid benefits to 13.6 million in mid-August.

Unemployment insurance benefits in New York have been extended to 59 weeks and pandemic unemployment assistance benefits have been extended to 46 weeks.

The $600 federal enhancement to benefits expired at the end of July. President Trump by executive action last month allowed states to tap $44 billion in disaster-relief funds to pay a $300 per week enhancement to state unemployment benefits. More than 40 states, including New York, have received federal approval to distribute the extra relief, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But The disaster funding is limited and could run out in less than six weeks, depending on how many people access it. To be eligible a person must be receiving at least $100 per week in state unemployment benefits.

Second Assembly District candidate Laura Jens-Smith (D-Laurel) said this week New York State should reform its unemployment insurance rules, which she called “archaic” and said unfairly penalize people who secure part-time work while unemployed.

“New York’s unemployment regulations were established when a workday was a traditional ‘9 – 5 day’,” Jens-Smith said Monday. When part-time workers return to work, whether they work 30 minutes or eight hours, they lose a full day’s benefit, because in New York, the unemployment insurance benefit is paid per day, Jens-Smith said.

“Other states reduce your benefit only by what you’ve earned,” she said. “That encourages people to go back to work.”

The State Assembly passed a bill in February that would change how the benefit is calculated, and make the benefit based an the
claimant’s weekly earnings rather than the number of days the claimant worked during the week. The bill was delivered to the State Senate Feb. 24 and remains stalled in the Labor Committee.

Jens-Smith called on the State Senate to pass the bill (A00446/S05754).

Second District Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who is leaving his Assembly seat to run for State Senate, voted in favor of the bill.

State Assembly candidate Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) on Monday announced her support of a Republican Assembly conference proposal that, among several other things, would change how the unemployment benefit is calculated for people who return to work part-time, reducing the benefit by 50% of the part-time income during a benefit period.

The Republican bill also would: expand the state earned income tax credit from 30% to 45% of the federal credit amount; offer the option for individuals to receive the state earned income tax credit in monthly installments; and expand the child and dependent care tax credit.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.