Palmesano: The Labor Dept Has Not Been Answering Calls

November 17, 2022

Urges aggressive action to recoup lost funds and renews call to provide unemployment relief to small businesses
Statement from Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning)

“In an audit completed by Comptroller DiNapoli it was revealed that the state Labor Department paid out $11 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims during COVID. For months, I joined my legislative colleagues in calling out the Labor Department for not answering calls for help from the unemployed, with many constituents going through our offices to obtain their benefits. The Labor Department systematically failed thousands of New Yorkers who were newly unemployed due to the COVID-mandated lockdowns put on by the Cuomo and Hochul administrations.

“The Labor Department also failed to provide proper oversight of itself, which is why the Legislature must intervene as a co-equal branch of government to get to the bottom of this fraud and take aggressive action to recoup this staggering loss of taxpayer dollars. Under Labor Commissioner Reardon, the department has been in disarray. Not only did she sign on to the disastrous farm laborer decision to lower the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours, which will devastate our family farms in New York, but we have now learned of this monumental loss of taxpayer dollars. It is completely unacceptable.

“In light of the Comptroller’s report, New Yorkers also learned that we still owe the federal government $7.7 billion in jobless payments. Many of my colleagues in the Legislature and I, in addition to the business community, have called on Gov. Hochul to use federal surplus dollars that New York obtained through COVID aid to help pay down this debt, as many other states have rightfully done. However, she chose to stick small-business owners with the bill and a surcharge.

“Small-business owners in our area and around the state have been operating at incredibly tight margins due to the COVID lockdown measures put into place by the administration, which decimated so many local, small businesses. They have also been shouldered with increased unemployment insurance payments, further impacting their operations. The success of our small businesses is critical to improving the quality of life of families in our communities, so it is unconscionable that Gov. Hochul would not take bold, broad and aggressive action to support them so they can stay and grow here. Instead, the administration’s continued inaction will just further contribute to driving more of them out of business.

“Over 350,000 New Yorkers left our state in 2020 alone, with even more continuing to follow every day. Our current course is unsustainable. Continued fraud, wasteful spending and misuse of taxpayer dollars, coupled with the inability to empathize with and support our hardworking small-business owners by this governor, will only further accelerate the exodus of more New York businesses, jobs and residents. We need action and accountability, now.”