As we’ve previously reported, with the current COVID-19 situation happening, things at the State Capitol, and around the state, are changing rapidly. We just wanted to provide you with a quick update about what has happened since Monday.
Legislature Passes Paid Sick Leave Bill
Yesterday, the Governor and Legislature struck a deal on a bill covering sick leave for workers ordered to stay home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The Senate has passed the bill already this afternoon, and the Assembly is expected to pass it by the end of the day. Governor Cuomo has said, once passed, he will sign it today as well. It will take effect immediately.
The legislation grants leave if the government orders an employee to quarantine or isolate as a result of COVID-19. State and local health departments can issue these orders, and they will if a person tests positive, is symptomatic, had close contact with a person who tested positive, or has recently returned from a country where the coronavirus has spread widely.
Once the government issues an order, the type of leave depends on the size of business:
No. of Employees & Net Income | Type & Days of Sick Leave
- Ten or fewer, and net income is under $1 million | Unpaid leave until order terminates
- Ten or fewer, but net income is over $1 million | 5 paid days, then unpaid leave until order terminates
- Between 11 and 99 | 5 paid days, then unpaid leave until order terminates
- Over 100 | 14 paid days, then unpaid leave until order terminates
When an employee under quarantine or isolation order begins receiving unpaid leave, the bill also allows them to use any paid family leave time. After exhausting paid leave they can receive short-term disability benefits, and the bill defines being ordered to stay home without the ability to work remotely as a disability in and of itself. Once an employee comes back to work, the employer cannot discriminate against them.
However, the bill contains two big exceptions. First, quarantined or isolated employees are not eligible if they have no COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis and they are “physically able to work . . . whether through remote access or other similar means,” Second, employees will not receive paid leave if their quarantine is because of personal travel abroad.
Finally, the bill waives the usual 7-day waiting period for certain unemployment claims. If the government orders a business to close because of COVID-19, as is currently the case for gyms and casinos, its employees do not receive sick pay but they can file for unemployment benefits right away. At a press conference Tuesday, the Governor hinted that he is prepared to close more businesses if the number of new cases continues apace.
New Workforce Restriction Rule
The Governor announced this morning that he will further amend Executive Order 202 to require all non-essential businesses to only have 50% of their employees physically at work. This new rule would not apply to “essential” businesses, which he said includes grocery stores, food services and delivery, pharmacies, and shipping and supplies. When asked for more clarity, the Governor said his administration will release a list specifically stating which businesses will be considered “essential”. As of this point, the Governor has not released his amended Executive Order, or the “essential business” list. We are continuing to monitor the Governor’s website for both of these and will contact you when they are available.
Budget talks between the two Houses and the Governor have continued, with many of the Governor’s original proposals falling off the table. Yesterday, the State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that the COVID-19 crisis could result in a revenue shortfall of as much as $7 billion. The Comptroller’s most optimistic scenario stated that the state’s tax revenue for the fiscal year beginning April 1, will be at least $4 billion below the Governor’s original projections. This has obviously thrown the budget talks into further confusion, and it is unknown when the Legislature plans to introduce and pass the final budget. However, Governor Cuomo this morning said he is still in no rush to pass it, saying, “If they want to do it sooner, great, but the date is April 1.”
We are continuing to monitor the effects of the COVID-19 crisis at every level, and will continue to provide you with important updates and information pertaining to your issues and concerns. We are also continuing to work hard and advocate for your issues during this time.
If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to call or email us.