Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a three-way agreement with the Legislature on a bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The program bill also includes the permanent comprehensive paid sick leave policy first advanced in the Governor’s FY 2021 Executive Budget proposal.
This follows the Governor’s announcement last week that the state will guarantee two full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the novel coronavirus.
The Governor announced that the state’s drive-through COVID-19 mobile testing facility opens today on Long Island. The Governor also authorized the State to open drive-through COVID-19 mobile testing facilities in Suffolk County, Rockland County and on Staten Island. This follows the success of the New Rochelle mobile testing center, which opened March 13th. Drive-through mobile testing facilities help keep people who are sick or at risk of having contracted coronavirus out of healthcare facilities where they could infect other people. These facilities are a critical part of the Governor’s nation-leading program to test thousands of people per day for COVID-19 by this week.
The Governor also announced that the state is reaching out to qualified former doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to supplement the personnel at hospitals. The State Department of Health and the State Education Department have sent letters to retired health care professionals and all schools of nursing, public health and medicine encouraging qualified health care personnel to sign up for on-call work during the COVID-19 crisis. Healthcare professionals who wish to sign up can contact the State Department of Health at health.ny.gov/assistance.
Governor Cuomo also directed the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State to work with 1199 SEIU to develop a plan to create drop-in child care opportunities and expand child care facilities at their hospitals to ensure child care for hospital workforce. They will submit a joint plan to the state by Friday.
“The single most effective way to contain the spread of this virus is to ensure people who may have come into contact with it do not interact with others. Last week I said we would lead by example by guaranteeing two weeks’ pay for state workers who have been quarantined as a result of covid-19,” Governor Cuomo said. “The paid sick leave measure we’ve agreed to today expands those protections to all new Yorkers – because no New Yorker should lose their job or income for following a critical public health order. This is an extraordinary time in this nation’s history, and it will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion. So my message to New Yorkers is this: Be a little bit more sensitive, understand the stress, understand the fear, be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative. We are going to get through it and we are going to get through it together.”
To address the immediate need of employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation, the Governor’s legislation will provide the following:
Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide job protection for the duration of the quarantine order and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.
The provisions of the quarantine legislation are set to take effect immediately upon passage, ensuring that New York workers will be able to take advantage of these benefits.
The legislation also includes the comprehensive paid sick leave proposal that was advanced by the Governor as part of his State of the State and FY 2021 Executive Budget, which will be effective 180 days after enactment. Specifically, the legislation provides:
Employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of unpaid sick leave each year.
Employers with 5-99 employees and employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave each year.
Employers with 100 or more employees will provide at least 7 days of paid sick leave each year.
NY Suspends Collection of Medical, Student State Debt
In a separate action, Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James today announced that — effective immediately — the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least a 30-day period, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. In an effort to support these workers and families and ease their financial burdens, the OAG will halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection from March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020. After this 30-day period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Additionally, the OAG will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection.
“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers that are suffering due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new action to temporarily suspend the collection of debt owed to the state will help mitigate the adverse financial impact of the outbreak on individuals, families, communities and businesses in New York State, as we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”
“In this time of crisis, my office will not add undue stress or saddle New Yorkers with unnecessary financial burden,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers need to focus on keeping themselves safe and healthy from the coronavirus, and therefore can rest assured that state medical and student debt referred to my office will not be collected against them for at least 30 days. This is the time when New Yorkers need to rally around each other and pick each other up, which is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to support our state’s residents.”
The OAG collects certain debts owed to the State of New York via settlements and lawsuits brought on behalf of the State of New York and state agencies. A total of more than 165,000 matters currently fit the criteria for a suspension of state debt collection, including, but not limited to:
Patients that owe medical debt due to the five state hospitals and the five state veterans’ home;
Students that owe student debt due to State University of New York campuses; and
Individual debtors, sole-proprietors, small business owners, and certain homeowners that owe debt relating to oil spill cleanup and removal costs, property damage, and breach of contract, as well as other fees owed to state agencies.
The temporary policy will also automatically suspend the accrual of interest and collection of fees on all outstanding state medical and student debt referred to the OAG for collection, so New Yorkers are not penalized for taking advantage of this program.
New Yorkers with non-medical or non-student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG, may also apply to temporarily halt the collection of state debt. Individuals seeking to apply for this temporary relief can fill out an application online or visit the OAG’s coronavirus website to learn more about the suspension of payments. If an individual is unable to fill out the online form, they can also call the OAG hotline at 1-800-771-7755 to learn more.
Finally, the Governor confirmed 432 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 1,374 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 1,374 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
New York City: 644 (187 new)
Westchester County: 380 (157 new)
Nassau County: 131 (24 new)
Suffolk County: 84 (21 new)
Albany County: 23 (11 new)
Rockland County: 22 (9 new)
Dutchess County: 16 (6 new)
Orange County: 15 (4 new)
Monroe County: 10 (1 new)
Saratoga County: 9 (4 new)
Ulster County: 8 (1 new)
Erie County: 7 (1 new)
Schenectady County: 5 (1 new)
Allegany County: 2
Greene County: 2
Onondaga County: 2 (1 new)
Putnam County: 2
Tompkins County: 2 (1 new)
Broome County: 1
Clinton County: 1 (1 new)
Delaware County: 1
Herkimer County: 1
Montgomery County: 1
Ontario County: 1
Rensselaer County: 1 (1 new)
Sullivan County: 1 (1 new)
Tioga County: 1
Wyoming County: 1