Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced additional reform measures to strengthen the state's Shared Work program that will help businesses avoid layoffs during short term financial difficulties. In 2012, employers using the Shared Work program saved 3,280 jobs. So far in 2013, 280 Shared Work plans have been approved saving an estimated 945 jobs.
"Any employer in New York considering layoffs should first contact the State Labor Department to determine how their jobs could be saved," Governor Cuomo said. "Shared work can be that lifeline, not only for business, but also for employees and their families."
The Shared Work program gives employers facing short term financial pressures an alternative to layoffs. Rather than lay off workers to cut costs, the program enables employers to reduce a worker's hours and enable the worker to collect partial unemployment insurance benefits to make up for the lost wages. The program allows workers to keep their health insurance, retirement, vacation pay and other fringe benefits. The employer, in return, gets to keep the skilled and trained workers and avoids the high cost of re-hiring and re-training new employees when business picks back up.
The changes announced by the Governor today include:
- Increasing the number of weeks an employee can receive partial unemployment benefits - from 20 to 26
- Lowering the minimum number of employees a business must have on the payroll to qualify, from five to two
- Allowing part-time employees to be eligible for the program.
In addition, under the Governor's enhancements, employers' Unemployment Insurance (UI) accounts will not be charged for benefits paid to Shared Work participants and employers' UI experience ratings will no longer be negatively affected by participating in Shared Work. These changes will save employers money in UI contributions paid. An employer pays more in UI contributions for a poorer rating.
"This program is vital to the future success of businesses here in New York, allowing them to retain their valuable employees when they lose a contract or see a temporary reduction in demand for their product or service," said Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera. "This program will help a business get back on its feet and avoid detrimental layoffs."
Additional reform measures include:
- With few exceptions, (i.e. seasonal or temporary work), the federal government will be temporarily reimbursing the state for the benefits paid under this program. Through his legislation, the Governor has elected to pass that savings on to the participating New York employers.
- In most cases, retirement and fringe benefits will not be reduced.
- Shared Work employees may participate in employer sponsored training or training funded by the Workforce Investment Act.
Employers from across the state have benefited from the Shared Work job-saving program.
In the Central New York region, 65 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 990 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 260 jobs were saved.
Christie Pearson-Riggell, of Interface Solutions, Inc. in Fulton, NY, said: "We are a company that have used the Shared Work Program for many years and have been very happy with it. We feel it benefits both the business and our employees, saving both time and paperwork in not having to lay staff off on a weekly basis. I would very much recommend the program to other companies and look forward to our continued use of the program."
In the Capital Region, 75 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 870 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 225 jobs were saved.
Ronda Fusco or World Logistics in Feura Bush, NY, said: "The Shared Work Program benefitted World Logistics because we are a seasonal business. Through using the program we were able to keep 60 employees working and on the payroll instead of laying them off. The employees appreciate the program as well."
In the Finger Lakes region, 120 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 2,030 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 530 jobs were saved.
Michelle Solpietro, the owner of Warsaw Meat Packing LLC in Warsaw, NY, said: "I am an owner of a small, family-owned business and have been in business for 36 years. I have been involved with Shard Work for two years and have been very pleased with the program. It helps me avoid laying off my employees. It is nice to know there is a program out there to help us small businesses."
In the Hudson Valley region, 85 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 630 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 165 jobs were saved.
Earl Thornton, President of Thornton Inc. in Ellenville, NY, said: "We opened our business 50 years ago and we have seen good times and bad. We have used the Shared Work program and it has been a nice partnership between us and the DOL. The program has worked very well for us, enabling us to keep afloat when tough times strike and then immediately go to a full work force when the tide turns."
In the Mohawk Valley region, 35 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 950 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 245 jobs were saved.
Linda Schuster from Alpin Haus in Amsterdam, NY, said: "Shared Work is a really good alternative to total unemployment insurance benefits. We have used it for over eight years and it works out well for the employees and for our business. The biggest benefit for the employees is that they do not lose their health insurance. For us as an employer, we keep our skilled workers."
In New York City, 100 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 925 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 240 jobs were saved.
Brandon Bolds of Pluribus Products in Brooklyn, NY, said: "The Shared Work Program has allowed us as a company to stay open and keep our full staff and operations intact. The aid allows us to save on our overhead, while lessening the financial hit on our employees, who we would have otherwise had to lay off completely or drastically reduce hours."
In the North Country region, 25 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 295 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 75 jobs were saved.
Joe Farney, General Manager of FiberMark in Brownville, NY, said: "The Shared work program has proven to be beneficial for our Brownville employees, as it ties nicely with the supply/demand aspect of our quick lead time business. Our customer base requires an almost spontaneous service attribute, which when business is strong works excellent. However when seasonality or slow economic events hit we see almost immediate downturns. The Shared Work option allows us to keep a flexible schedule and provides some stability for the employees' income when these events are encountered."
In the Southern Tier region, 65 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 2,145 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 555 jobs were saved.
Jeanette Potter of Esterline Advanced Sensors in Norwich, NY, said: "We first used the Shared Work Program in 2009 when we had a downturn in business. The employees who participated in the plan were very grateful that the program helped us preserve their jobs; and we were thrilled to keep our talent. When we experienced another downturn in March of 2013, we opted for the Shared Work program again. We currently have 120 employees on the program, and are grateful again to be able to keep our pool of talented employees. The flexibility of the plan is extremely helpful, being able work full weeks when business needs necessitate it. The program has helped us keep 10 employees who otherwise would have been part of a lay off."
In the Western New York region, 120 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 2,160 workers participated, and an estimated 560 jobs were saved.
John Ruth, General Manager of Exel Inc in Lockport, NY, said: "The Shared Work Program has been an excellent resource for our facility during difficult economic times. The program greatly assists our employees by protecting wages and ensuring benefits are available to those involved in the program. The Shared Work program has been a great help."
To apply for the Shared Work program, employers can call the State Labor Department at (518) 457-5807 or visit: www.labor.ny.gov/sharedwork.