Coronavirus Update: Lawmaker urges NY labor department to close unemployment loophole

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Following a report Friday, by 7 On Your Side Investigates examining a loophole at the New York State Department of Labor that is potentially keeping thousands of people ineligible for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, one lawmaker is demanding action.

Sen. Monica Martinez, D-Brentwood, wrote the Department of Labor Monday urging the state to provide a remedy.

In a letter addressed to Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, Sen. Martinez wrote, "During this unprecedented time, I strongly urge you to temporarily waive the enacted forfeit days for individuals seeking unemployment insurance benefits during a State of Emergency."

Eyewitness News found many people with outstanding penalties assessed by the department or appealing past department rulings were being denied benefits.

"There are so many other things families are worried about, one of them contracting this virus, and we need to alleviate these concerns," she said in an interview with Eyewitness News. "A concern should not be, 'Can I feed my family?' That should not be a concern any one should have at this point in time."

Sen. Martinez said she had personally spoken to Reardon about the issue, and she said she also raised the issue during a daily legislative call with the Governor's Office.

"I know conversations are happening and taking place, and I do hope to see movement on this," Martinez said.

A labor department spokesperson also told Eyewitness News the department was working to close the loophole so these individuals would be able to obtain the assistance they need during the crisis and massive increase in unemployment caused by coronavirus.

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