Assembly Expands Unemployment Insurance Eligibility, Parents Forced to Leave Workplace for Children Now Included

Speaker Carl Heastie, Labor Committee Chair Latoya Joyner and Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford today announced the Assembly has passed legislation expanding unemployment insurance eligibility to include workers who have had to leave their jobs in order to meet their child care obligations.Existing labor law provides that unemployment insurance claimants who have voluntarily ended their employment for “good cause” due to a compelling family reason may qualify for benefits. This legislation makes clear that meeting child care obligations constitutes a “compelling family reason” (A.6080, Lunsford).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a devastating toll on New York’s working families. Too many parents and guardians – and women especially – have been forced to leave the workforce because they could not find child care,” said Speaker Heastie. “This important legislation will put families first, ensuring that they can get the unemployment benefits they deserve, while ensuring that their children are taken care of during this public health and economic crisis.”

“In these difficult times, many New Yorkers have been forced to end their employment as a result of their inability to find or afford adequate child care,” said Assemblymember Joyner. “This legislation ensures that workers faced with this difficult decision are able to collect the unemployment benefits they need and deserve if they are no longer able to work as a result of their child care obligations.”

“Our state had a child care crisis before COVID-19,” said Assemblymember Lunsford. “This pandemic has worsened that crisis and left too many New Yorkers, especially women, stuck between their job and their families.This commonsense bill helps address that issue by ensuring that New Yorkers who are forced to leave their jobs to care for their children at home have the support they need while they look for a new childcare provider.”

Just as workers who file for unemployment must demonstrate they are looking for work, claimants who end their employment in order to meet their childcare obligations must demonstrate reasonable effort is being made to find alternative care.This legislation ensures that workers who were forced to make the difficult decision to leave their jobs to care for their children at home are not denied the benefits they need.

Currently, New York State unemployment insurance claimants who voluntarily leave the workforce without good cause are ineligible for benefits.The unemployment insurance appeal board and the courts have interpreted whether the need to provide child care constitutes good cause, and have been inconsistent in their decisions, with some denying benefits and others ruling in favor of the claimant.