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Local leaders push for state support in proposed unemployment program

FILE - The New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., is pictured on Dec. 14, 2020. New York's minimum-wage workers had more than just the new year to celebrate Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, with a pay bump kicking in as the clock ticked over to 2024. In the first of a series of annual increases slated for the Empire State, the minimum wage increased to $16 in New York City and some of its suburbs, up from $15. In the rest of the state, the new minimum wage is $15, up from $14.20. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
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FILE - The New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., is pictured on Dec. 14, 2020. . (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Local officials and workers’ rights advocates are pushing for a new unemployment relief program to be approved by the state legislature.

Some central New York officials want the legislature to include $500 million in the state budget for an Unemployment Bridge Program, aimed at expanding unemployment insurance to more people like freelancers, digital media workers, some formerly incarcerated people, agricultural workers and other self-employed workers who can’t access unemployment insurance.

The plan would provide workers with up to a $1,200 monthly payment if they lose work, something Ithaca-area Assemblymember Anna Kelles said would help everyone.

“It’s common sense legislation to create a stable economy for everyone,” Kelles said. “We know that when there are a significant number of people who are economically unstable in our economy, the entire economy is destabilized,” Kelles said. “We also know that the unemployment insurance program is phenomenally outdated.”

Proposed legislation includes a digital ad tax to help fund the program. The tax would collect a portion of annual revenues of digital advertising services from companies whose gross annual revenues are $100 million or more like Google and Facebook. Bahar Tolou, organizing director for the Action Center on Race and Economy, said this revenue could more than pay for the program.

“Based on our estimates this would generate something like $700 million in revenue for New York State annually and growing every year because it is just growing so quickly,” “So this can actually fund the Unemployment Bridge Program and other critical services for the people of New York.”

The legislation is supported by worker’s groups like Workers' Center of CNY and Worker Justice Center of NY. Kelles said the overall legislation is designed to meet the needs of New Yorkers.

“This is for so many people who work in New York State who fall through the cracks that not only destabilize their lives but it hurts our entire economy,” Kelles said.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.