Tags Posts tagged with "unemployment"


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When people look back to spring 2020, they remember how the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down. Zoom became a regular form of communication, visits to grandparents were done in a drive-thru fashion and many people anxiously awaited their stimulus checks.

While those checks from the U.S. government were sent, some people needed the money more than others. 

Many people lost their jobs, their businesses and their livelihoods. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February 2020 — just before the pandemic hit the States — unemployment was at 3.5%. Just two months later, as the virus began to spread rapidly, unemployment rates skyrocketed to nearly 15%.

But what many people might not realize is how impacted the local arts were during this time. 

We as a society leaned on our first responders out in the trenches. We listened to our elected officials on the news every day hoping to hear something good. We shopped locally to help our business-owning neighbors. 

However, something that we all enjoy one way or another — the arts — was shattered and not much was being done to help our local artists, performers and creators. 

According to Johns Hopkins University research, as of December 2021, the percentage of job losses at nonprofit arts organizations remained more than three times worse than the average of all nonprofits. 

Artists/creatives were — and remain — among the most severely affected segment of the nation’s workforce. The arts are a formidable industry in the U.S. — $919.7 billion (pre-COVID) that supported 5.2 million jobs and represented 4.3% of the nation’s economy.

And now, nearing two years since the 2020 shutdowns, artists on Long Island are voicing how it felt. Many believe that significant relief funding was not given to the arts and related nonprofits despite the impact they have on Long Island’s economy.

Think about it. How many of us love to see a show at the local theater? How many of us hang artwork from nearby artists on our walls? How many of us enjoy live music as we dine at our favorite eateries? 

Those people had jobs, too. 

Sometimes we forget that the people working after a typical 9-to-5 shift are working, too. What some may call a hobby is a way of life for thousands of people.

We still have a way to go, and unfortunately COVID will haunt us for a very long time in more ways than one. But the next time you’re out to dinner with a friend, drop a tip in the guitar player’s case. Splurge on a drawing from a local artist and support your neighborhood theater. 

The arts helped us during the pandemic. We found solace in other people’s creations. Now it’s time to pay back the artists and show them how much they are needed, wanted and loved.

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By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Why, if there are 9,700,000 Americans looking for work now, some six percent of our population, are there so many signs outside businesses seeking helpers? Granted, many of those signs are in front of restaurants looking for waiters and shops needing salespeople, service industries in the main, but why the disconnect? And this is not just a regional problem but one in large cities like New York, villages like ours, as discussed at a recent local chamber of commerce meeting, and even rural communities. 

The situation could have some unwelcome consequences as the economy tries to recover. “It could act as a brake on growth and cause unnecessary business failures, long lines at remaining businesses and rising prices,” according to an article in last Saturday’s The New York Times, entitled “Businesses Challenged to Fill Jobs.”

The story, written by Neil Irwin, goes on to offer some possible answers. First is the suggestion that benefits are too generous. “The government is making it easy for people to stay home and get paid. You can’t really blame them much. But it means we have hours to fill and no one who wants to work.” That’s a quote from a pub owner in upstate Baldwinsville, New York, that appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard and was reprinted in the NYT. 

Some people can make as much or more, thanks to the expanded weekly unemployment payments and the various stimulus cash that has been delivered by the government, at least for awhile. With the reawakening of restaurants and services now, there are more jobs than applicants, which doesn’t drive workers to seek work, compared to the opposite, when the pandemic first hit and jobs were disappearing. The recipients of the cash are doing what economists hoped they would do: spending it. That encourages businesses to reopen, but without enough help. Hence the problem. But it may cure itself when expanded benefits run out in September.

There are other reasons workers may not be inclined to rush back into the workforce. Some, especially those with public-facing jobs, may be afraid of getting sick themselves or perhaps bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. There does seem to be a relationship between vaccinations of people and a rise in their employment rate, according to the NYT. Researchers have found that a “10-percentage-point increase in those fully vaccinated results in a 1.1 percentage-point increase in their employment.” It would make sense that vaccinated people are more comfortable serving the public.

Here is another possible explanation for the labor shortage. Some of the workers are still needed at home, especially women who might be caring for children, some taking classes remotely, or elderly members of their family. The Times goes on to quote a survey indicating that 6,300,000 million people “were not working because of a need to care for a child not in a school or day care center; and a further 2,100,000 were caring for an older person.” Many of those people, especially women, have disappeared from the rolls of the unemployed and are not even counted any longer. The answer here, as in everywhere else, is in conquering the virus and establishing herd immunity so schools and day care centers can open.

For those businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and have been able to raise the wages they pay workers, like Amazon or construction companies, there is less of a supply problem. But those businesses take away potential workers from industries like restaurants, with thin profit margins. And those workers may not return if they have found better berths for themselves elsewhere.

These issues will sort themselves out eventually, as public health improves and supply-and-demand comes to equilibrium. But one thing is certain. The return to any sort of “normal” will not happen without bumps in the road.

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Scammers are using a variety of methods tied to COVID-19 economic impact payments to target consumers

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is alerting consumers on Jan. 6 about scammers taking advantage of COVID-19 economic stimulus payments. With another round of economic stimulus payments approved by Congress, scammers will be sending phishing emails, texts and phone calls and using social media to try to steal economic impact payments and your personal information. Consumers are reminded that it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of unsolicited communications asking for your personal or private information.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have been hard at work trying to steal money from unsuspecting New Yorkers,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “With this latest round of stimulus funding on its way, I urge all New Yorkers to be extra diligent and follow simple steps to keep your money and personal identity safe.”

New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt said, “We all must remain especially vigilant against scam artists trying to steal this latest round of stimulus funding from New Yorkers. We’re sharing valuable information so you can learn how to spot red flags and where to find reliable information so you won’t be caught off guard by con artists.”

New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said, “New Yorkers are being challenged like never before by a global pandemic, and to make matters worse, we’ve seen unscrupulous individuals use technology in a desperate and dishonest attempt to scam them out of their own money. Fortunately, New Yorkers can protect themselves against these COVID-related scams if they are armed with the right information. Always be wary of unsolicited phone calls, texts, emails, links or attachments, even if the sender appears to be known. And, never send your personal information via email or text.”

What You Need to Know about Economic Impact Payments
On December 27, 2020, the federal government passed a pandemic relief package. An important component of individual relief, Economic Impact Payments, will be issued to New Yorkers from the IRS.

You don’t need to take any action to automatically receive your stimulus payment if you:

  • filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and are eligible; or
  • received one of these benefits (unless claiming a qualifying child under age 17):
      • – Social Security retirement benefits and survivor benefits
      • – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and survivor benefits
      • – Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
      • – Railroad Retirement and survivor benefits
      – Veterans Administration compensation (disability, death benefits etc.) or retirement benefits

While most people will receive their payment automatically, if you otherwise have not filed taxes recently, you may need to submit a simple Federal tax return to get your check. For more information on the Economic Impact Payments, New Yorkers should visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at Economic Impact Payment information: what you need to know or the IRS at Economic Impact Payments.

Below are tips to help keep your economic impact payment and personal information safe from scammers:

  • Rely on trusted sites for information. Visit legitimate, government websites—for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19. Visit the IRS website directly for the latest information on the economic impact payments. Remember, the government will never call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.
  • Delete emails asking you for personal information to receive an economic stimulus check. Government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money.
  • Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. See Using Caution with Email Attachments and Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Scams for more information.
  • Don’t provide personal or banking information. Scammers may ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up your economic impact payment.
  • Do not agree to sign over your economic impact payment check. Scammers may ask you to sign over your stimulus payment check to them.
  • Be wary of bogus checks. Scammers may mail you a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
  • Do not cash unsolicited checks. Scammers use this tactic to get your bank account information, and you will incur fees when the check is found to be insufficient.
  • Be aware that scammers are also able to replicate a government agency’s name and phone number on caller ID. It’s important to remember that the IRS will never ask you for your personal information or threaten your benefits by phone call, email, text or social media.
  • Hang up on illegal robocallers. If you receive a call about economic impact payment scams, hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
  • Notify the IRS if you are contacted by a potential scammer. If you receive an unsolicited email, text or social media attempt that appears to be from the IRS or an organization associated with the IRS, like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, notify the IRS at [email protected].
  • Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information.
  • Review CISA Insights on Risk Management for COVID-19 for more information.

With assistance from ITS, the Department of Health continues to maintain up-to-date “Stay Cyber Safe” tips and active warnings at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/stay-cyber-safe.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm or visit the DCP website at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

-Information provided by the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Those businesses that qualified for a paycheck protection program (PPP) loan have had a bit of a honeymoon from the novel coronavirus these last eight weeks. They were allowed to apply to the government for two months plus 50 percent of their labor costs. From that money they had to pay at least 60 percent to workers to cover payroll, with the remainder underwriting other expenses like utilities, payroll taxes and leases.

So the employers who received the payments could relax during those two months, and the employees could also stop holding their breaths, knowing that their salaries would be paid. And the government would keep the workers employed. At least that was how it was supposed to work, and it did, except when the weekly unemployment insurance payments were greater than the weekly salaries and proved too much of a temptation to the employee. In those cases, the employer was in competition with the government and, depending on the worker’s loyalty and long term concern about holding onto a job, the employer would often lose. 

But the program was essentially a good one. The funds, paid to the businesses and-in turn to their employees, kept the work force together and saved the workers from the frustrations of trying to collect unemployment. 

The original thinking was that the pandemic would probably lessen after two months and businesses could resume as normal. Well, we now know how that turned out. The pandemic is still with us, although New York is in a much better condition at the moment than most of the rest of the country, but economic activity has not returned to anything like normal, and with social distancing, looks unlikely to return soon. 

For many of those businesses, the PPP honeymoon is almost over. How do we prevent a return to the layoffs, loss of company health insurance and nail biting of the pre-PPP days? 

The good thing about a pandemic is that the whole world is in the same situation, and we can look around and see how other countries are coping or trying to cope. The U.S. has relied on an expanded program of unemployment insurance to tide over workers until the economy resurrects itself. Many European countries have prevented joblessness by essentially nationalizing payrolls and enabling workers to continue to be paid and businesses to resume whenever that happy day comes, without having to rehire and possibly retrain. Workers are often furloughed if there is no work at the shuttered shops and factories, meaning that their jobs will be held for them and they continue to receive their salary, although generally at a reduced amount. 

In short, Europeans have been pursuing an extended PPP. Workers have not overwhelmed the unemployment insurance system, caused websites to crash, phones to go unanswered, lost health coverage, nor have they stood the requisite six feet apart in the hot sun on long lines in parking lots, waiting to get into benefit offices. There is also the intangible but priceless advantage of workers not feeling jobless, with the fear and loss of identity that often brings. 

And today, many feel just that. The U.S. number in June for jobless was 11.1 percent. That’s an increase of some eight percent since February. In the aforementioned European countries, the jobless rate has increased by less than 1 percent. In human terms, that means some 20 million Americans are unemployed. While that’s better than 23 million in April, probably almost all of those people have families who also will feel the effects as tenants begin to be evicted and queues form for food banks. 

We don’t know what is going to happen in the next few weeks, as government programs for business and unemployment benefits run out if not extended. The $600 federal unemployment boost is supposed to end July 31. Congress is debating whether to extend the time or modify the payout, even as some worry that paying workers more than their salary is a disincentive to work.

Just remember, we are in this together. Hang on and stay safe.