Public Hearing - February 02, 2021

Download PDF
    
		                                                                   1

 1  BEFORE THE NEW YORK STATE SENATE FINANCE
    AND ASSEMBLY WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEES
 2  ----------------------------------------------------

 3          JOINT LEGISLATIVE HEARING

 4             In the Matter of the
          2021-2022 EXECUTIVE BUDGET ON
 5            WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT 
    
 6  ----------------------------------------------------

 7  
                             Virtual Hearing 
 8                           Conducted Online via Zoom
    
 9                           February 2, 2021
                             3:46 p.m.
10  
    
11  
    PRESIDING:
12
             Senator Liz Krueger
13           Chair, Senate Finance Committee
    
14           Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein
             Chair, Assembly Ways & Means Committee
15  
    
16  PRESENT:

17           Senator Thomas F. O'Mara 
             Senate Finance Committee (RM)
18  
             Assemblyman Edward P. Ra 
19           Assembly Ways & Means Committee (RM)
    
20           Senator Jessica Ramos
             Chair, Senate Committee on Labor
21  
             Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner
22           Chair, Assembly Committee on Labor
    
23           Senator Andrew Gounardes
             Chair, Senate Committee on Civil Service
24            and Pensions

                                                                   2

 1  2021-2022 Executive Budget
    Workforce Development
 2  2-2-21
    
 3  PRESENT:  (Continued)
    
 4           Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr. 
             Chair, Assembly Committee on 
 5            Governmental Employees
    
 6           Senator Pete Harckham
    
 7           Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa
    
 8           Senator Brad Hoylman
    
 9           Senator Roxanne J. Persaud
    
10           Assemblyman Phil Steck
    
11           Senator Diane J. Savino
    
12           Assemblyman Joe DeStefano
    
13           Senator George Borrello
    
14           Assemblywoman Judy Griffin
    
15           Senator Shelley Mayer
    
16           Assemblyman Harry Bronson
    
17           Senator John Liu
    
18           Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon
    
19           Senator John W. Mannion
    
20           Assemblyman Colin Schmitt
    
21           Senator Mario R. Mattera
    
22           Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio
    
23           Senator James Tedisco
    
24  
    

                                                                   3

 1  2021-2022 Executive Budget
    Workforce Development
 2  2-2-21
    
 3                   LIST OF SPEAKERS
    
 4                                     STATEMENT  QUESTIONS
    
 5  Roberta Reardon
    Commissioner
 6  Department of Labor                      8         17
    
 7  Lola Brabham 
    Commissioner
 8  NYS Department of 
     Civil Service                          98        105
 9  
    Michael N. Volforte 
10  Director
    NYS Governor's Office of 
11   Employee Relations (GOER)             119        127
    
12  Fran Turner 
    Director of Legislative
13   and Political Action
    Civil Service Employees
14   Association, Local 1000               
        -and-
15  Randi DiAntonio
    Vice President
16  NYS Public Employees 
     Federation (PEF)
17      -and-
    Henry Garrido
18  Executive Director
    District Council 37                    136       147
19  
    Barbara Zaron
20  President
    Organization of NYS Management
21   Confidential Employees (OMCE)         
        -and-
22  Edward Farrell
    Executive Director 
23  Retired Public Employees
     Association                           179        185
24  
    

                                                                   4

 1  2021-2022 Executive Budget
    Workforce Development
 2  2-2-21
    
 3                 LIST OF SPEAKERS, Continued 
    
 4                                    STATEMENT  QUESTIONS
    
 5  Vanessa Agudelo
    Manager of Member Engagement
 6   for the Hudson Valley
    New York Immigration Coalition
 7      -and-
    James A. Parrott, Ph.D.
 8  Director of Economic and
     Fiscal Policies
 9  Center for New York City 
     Affairs at The New School
10      -and-
    Miriam Clark
11  Chair
    National Employment Lawyers
12   Association
        -and-
13  Martha Ponge
    Director of Apprenticeship
14  Manufacturers Association of 
     Central New York (MACNY)
15      -on behalf of-
    Manufacturers Intermediary
16   Apprenticeship Program
     (MIAP)                                187      202
17  
    Nadia Marin-Molina
18  Co-Executive Director
    National Day Laborer 
19   Organizating Network
        -and-
20  Ligia Guallpa
    Executive Director
21  Workers Justice Project
        -and-
22  Marco Castillo
    Member
23  Transnational Villages 
     Network                               206      217
24  
    

                                                                   5

 1                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:   Good afternoon.  

 2          Welcome to Hearing -- {inaudible}.  It is 

 3          3:30 in the afternoon, and these are the 

 4          joint legislative budget hearings of the 

 5          Senate and the Assembly.

 6                 I am Senator Liz Krueger, the chair of 

 7          the Finance Committee in the Senate.  I am 

 8          joined by -- many colleagues, but Helene 

 9          Weinstein, the chair of Ways and Means in the 

10          Assembly.  We will be cochairing today's 

11          budget hearing.

12                 Today is the fifth of 13 hearings 

13          conducted by the joint fiscal committees of 

14          the Legislature regarding the Governor's 

15          proposed budget for state fiscal year 

16          '21-'22.  These hearings are conducted 

17          pursuant to the New York State Constitution 

18          and Legislative Law.  

19                 Today the Senate Finance Committee and 

20          the Assembly Ways and Means Committee will 

21          hear testimony concerning the Governor's 

22          proposed budget for the New York State 

23          Department of Labor, the New York State 

24          Department of Civil Service, and the New York 


                                                                   6

 1          State Governor's Office of Employee 

 2          Relations.

 3                 Following each testimony there will be 

 4          some time for questions from the chairs of 

 5          the fiscal committees and the other relevant 

 6          committees.  I will now introduce members 

 7          from the Senate, and Assemblymember Helene 

 8          Weinstein, chair of the Assembly Ways and 

 9          Means Committee, will introduce members of 

10          the Assembly.

11                 Following, actually, Senator 

12          Tom O'Mara, the ranking member of the 

13          Senate Finance Committee, will introduce 

14          members of his conference.

15                 I want to say hello to everyone.  

16          Welcome, you.  I'm just going to go through 

17          to see if I can find my Senate list.  I see 

18          Senator Shelley Mayer, Senator Andrew 

19          Gounardes, Senator Borrello -- I believe I 

20          did see him.  Yes, George Borrello.  Senator 

21          John Mannion.  Senator Ma -- excuse me, I'll 

22          wait.  Senator Pete Harckham.  Senator Diane 

23          Savino.  Senator -- that might be it for now.

24                 I'm going to pass it quickly to 


                                                                   7

 1          Tom O'Mara to introduce the Republican 

 2          members.

 3                 SENATOR O'MARA:  Yes, thank you, 

 4          Chairwoman Krueger.

 5                 We have Senator Borrello, who you 

 6          mentioned, and Senator Mario Mattera has 

 7          joined us as well.  I think that's all I saw 

 8          on our list.  Thank you.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  And as more 

10          Senators join us, we will introduce them as 

11          we go along, not to worry.

12                 Back to you, Assemblywoman.

13                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We have the 

14          chair of our Labor Committee, Assemblywoman 

15          Joyner; chair of our Government Employees 

16          Committee, Assemblyman Peter Abbate.  We also 

17          have Assemblymember De La Rosa and 

18          Assemblymember Steck.

19                 Assemblyman Ra, chair -- ranker of 

20          Ways and Means, will introduce the members of 

21          his conference that are here.

22                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Thank you, 

23          Chairwoman.  We are joined by Assemblyman 

24          Colin Schmitt, and Assemblyman Joe DeStefano, 


                                                                   8

 1          who is our ranking member on the Government 

 2          Employees Committee.

 3                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Great, thank you.  

 4          I'm sorry?

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  I see we've 

 6          also been joined by Assemblywoman Jo Anne 

 7          Simon.  So now back to the Senate.

 8                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

 9                 So the rules of the road.  The 

10          government representatives each get 

11          10 minutes to testify.  The chairs of the 

12          committees get 10 minutes to ask them 

13          questions.  The rankers get five minutes to 

14          ask them questions.  And then everyone else 

15          gets three minutes to answer {sic}.  And the 

16          commissioner needs to give the answers within 

17          those time frames as well.  We'll walk 

18          through that a little bit later if we get 

19          confused.

20                 And so I'd like to first introduce 

21          Commissioner Roberta Reardon, who is the 

22          commissioner of the Department of Labor.

23                 Good afternoon.  

24                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Good afternoon.  


                                                                   9

 1          Thank you.  Chairs Krueger and Weinstein and 

 2          distinguished members of each committee, 

 3          thank you for this opportunity to talk about 

 4          some of the proposals that Governor Cuomo has 

 5          put forward in his Executive Budget, as well 

 6          as the work of the Department of Labor.  

 7                 My name is Roberta Reardon, and I am 

 8          the commissioner of the New York State 

 9          Department of Labor.  I am proud to lead the 

10          department in carrying out its mission of 

11          protecting workers, providing benefits to the 

12          unemployed, and connecting job seekers to 

13          jobs.  

14                 This past year was a challenging one 

15          for all of us.  However, the men and women of 

16          the DOL, while pushed to the brink, went 

17          above and beyond to help their fellow 

18          New Yorkers in their time of need, and they 

19          remain dedicated to the vital work we do to 

20          protect and assist all New Yorkers.  

21                 We could not have tackled this crisis 

22          without your help, the help of your staff 

23          members, and those from our state workforce 

24          who stepped up to assist.  And from the 


                                                                   10

 1          bottom of my heart, I thank you.  

 2                 Governor Cuomo has also been steadfast 

 3          in his leadership and in helping all of our 

 4          agencies navigate this unprecedented pandemic 

 5          that no one saw coming.  Every state has 

 6          experienced an historic surge in unemployment 

 7          claims, and every state's system have been 

 8          pushed to the limit by this pandemic.  But 

 9          few states have seen the magnitude that 

10          New York has.  And in New York, we've moved 

11          faster and more aggressively than any other 

12          state in the nation to get New Yorkers the 

13          money they so desperately need.  

14                 To give you some context about this 

15          crisis, since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 

16          early March the Department of Labor has paid 

17          over $65 billion in unemployment benefits to 

18          more than 4 million New Yorkers in just over 

19          11 months.  In 2019, we paid just 

20          $2.1 billion in total for the entire year.  

21          In that context, we have paid over 30 years' 

22          worth of benefits in just over 11 months.  

23                 As taxing as this pandemic has been on 

24          our systems and our DOL family, we embraced 


                                                                   11

 1          those challenges head on and used the 

 2          opportunity to thoroughly reevaluate best 

 3          practices to better serve New Yorkers.  

 4                 Our UI modernization project was 

 5          already underway, and because of that we were 

 6          in a better place than most states when this 

 7          crisis hit.  

 8                 And because of the tsunami of claims 

 9          this crisis caused, we have refocused our 

10          efforts and implemented improved technology 

11          and better procedures ahead of schedule, 

12          including building and launching a new online 

13          unemployment application backed by Google 

14          Cloud technology; providing a seamless 

15          application experience for Pandemic 

16          Unemployment Assistance applicants weeks 

17          ahead of other major states; launching a 

18          streamlined DocuSign process for submitting 

19          backdated certifications, allowing 

20          New Yorkers to get paid easier and faster; 

21          and expanding the number of DOL 

22          representatives making and answering calls, 

23          from 700 to over 3,000 a day, to increase our 

24          claims processing capacity.  


                                                                   12

 1                 We also learned how to better 

 2          communicate with our customers in real time 

 3          and in ways that they can understand, across 

 4          multiple platforms, such as introducing an 

 5          updated and streamlined automated phone 

 6          system that better connects unemployed 

 7          New Yorkers with the help they need; 

 8          improving our online and social media 

 9          presence to get relevant information out to 

10          claimants as quickly as possible; 

11          implementing an automated chatbot on our 

12          website, which can answer New Yorkers' 

13          frequently asked questions in multiple 

14          languages; and rolling out a system to 

15          directly text and email applicants the status 

16          of their claim as it moves through the 

17          approval process.  And I'm happy to say there 

18          are more improvements coming.  

19                 Now, I would be remiss if I did not 

20          mention the incredible work of DOL's Office 

21          of Special Investigations.  During this 

22          crisis it has prevented over $5.5 billion 

23          from falling into the hands of fraudsters by 

24          identifying more than 425,000 fraudulent 


                                                                   13

 1          Unemployment Insurance claims.  

 2                 While much of our work and our staff 

 3          has been devoted to Unemployment Insurance 

 4          for the last several months, our work as a 

 5          multifaceted agency never stopped, and now we 

 6          are pivoting staff and resources back to 

 7          other parts of the agency.  

 8                 One of our most critical priorities is 

 9          providing resourceful and innovative ways to 

10          help New Yorkers get back to work, and 

11          finding creative solutions to help businesses 

12          thrive in a new world of work.  

13                 Within the last couple of weeks the 

14          DOL took emergency measures to implement a 

15          Partial Unemployment Insurance Program which 

16          bases New Yorkers' partial unemployment 

17          benefits on the hours they actually work, 

18          rather than on the number of days they work 

19          in a given week.  Under this new system, 

20          unemployed New Yorkers who accept part-time 

21          work will not be penalized, and it will also 

22          help businesses fill part-time positions.  

23                 We've launched a new platform of 

24          virtual services.  This includes Career Fairs 


                                                                   14

 1          and a contract with Coursera to provide a 

 2          free online training platform that offers 

 3          nearly 4,000 programs and learning 

 4          opportunities for the unemployed.  

 5                 We remain committed to connecting 

 6          New Yorkers with the jobs they love and jobs 

 7          that are available now.  The DOL has more 

 8          than 120,000 jobs posted from all regions in 

 9          the state, across all industries, on our Jobs 

10          Express website at labor.ny.gov/jobs.  We're 

11          sending proactive recruitment emails as well 

12          as encouraging both businesses and unemployed 

13          New Yorkers to utilize our Jobs Express 

14          website.  

15                 And we are also working to ensure that 

16          New Yorkers are trained and ready to meet the 

17          needs of the new green jobs created by our 

18          emerging clean-energy sector.  

19                 In addition to helping New Yorkers get 

20          back to work, we've been hard at work on 

21          other important DOL initiatives.  Thanks to 

22          Governor Cuomo's proactive agenda to empower 

23          workers and protect the health of 

24          New Yorkers, they can begin using sick leave 


                                                                   15

 1          benefits under the state's nation-leading 

 2          paid sick leave law.  Prior to the law's 

 3          passage, approximately 1.3 million 

 4          New Yorkers did not have access to paid sick 

 5          leave, forcing them to either take unpaid 

 6          leave and risk losing their jobs or show up 

 7          to work while sick.  

 8                 As a member of the New York State 

 9          Climate Action Council and cochair of the 

10          Just Transition Working Group, I am working 

11          aggressively with my fellow members on a 

12          comprehensive plan to achieve the state's 

13          bold clean energy and climate agenda.  I 

14          applaud Governor Cuomo for the progressive 

15          "green energy economy" he outlined in this 

16          year's State of the State, which will 

17          complement our efforts to build a better 

18          future and a greener footprint for all 

19          New Yorkers.  

20                 The Department of Labor is committed 

21          to protecting workers and leveling the 

22          playing field for all businesses, including 

23          our farm laborers and employers in the 

24          agricultural community.  Under the Farm 


                                                                   16

 1          Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, I convened 

 2          a Farm Laborers Wage Board.  The board held 

 3          five public hearings to hear testimony on 

 4          overtime work.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic 

 5          and the current economic climate, the board 

 6          recommended a pause on any actions, with a 

 7          call to reconvene the wage board by the end 

 8          of 2021.

 9                 2020 pushed many state agencies to 

10          their limits, including the Department of 

11          Labor.  However, we rallied together to 

12          weather this enormous storm, got the job done 

13          ahead of most states, and frankly, overall, 

14          it made us better as an agency.  We recognize 

15          that there's more to come, and we're prepared 

16          to meet those challenges.  We've learned many 

17          valuable lessons that have strengthened us as 

18          an agency.  We've improved our communication 

19          and our technology.  We have a new, renewed 

20          vigor and focus, and we have more initiatives 

21          to come.

22                 Our mission has always been to do 

23          whatever it takes to help New Yorkers.  

24          throughout this pandemic, we have gone above 


                                                                   17

 1          and beyond to deliver on that promise, and we 

 2          will continue to do just that.

 3                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  You didn't even 

 4          use your 10 minutes, Commissioner.

 5                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I know.

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  You get extra 

 7          points.  Thank you.

 8                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I saved them 

 9          for you.

10                 (Laughter.)

11                 SENATOR RAMOS:  I'll take them!  

12                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Exactly.  

13                 Our first questioner will be our Labor 

14          Chair, Senator Ramos, who has 10 minutes.

15                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Thank you, Chair 

16          Senator Krueger.  Commissioner Reardon, it's 

17          good to see you.

18                 It's true, we've gone through very 

19          difficult times here in the state, and you 

20          have gone through very difficult times.  I 

21          think you've done the best you can with what 

22          you've been given.  And why we're here is to 

23          talk about how you haven't been given enough, 

24          and how we need to advocate for more.


                                                                   18

 1                 I actually want to begin by talking 

 2          about partial unemployment.  We passed the 

 3          bill a few weeks ago in the Senate, but the 

 4          administration has repeatedly said that they 

 5          can't implement the new PUI system for at 

 6          least a year because of the agency's 

 7          antiquated computer systems.  This was the 

 8          same issue that we had with Unemployment 

 9          Insurance when folks were making their claims 

10          at the peak of the pandemic the most.

11                 Other states, like Georgia, have been 

12          able to update their computers and implement 

13          complete partial UI reforms.  Why is New York 

14          moving so much slower than other states to 

15          make these long-overdue fixes?  And why would 

16          it possibly take a year to implement these 

17          needed reforms?

18                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So there's 

19          actually two parts to the partial 

20          unemployment fix, as it were.  The first part 

21          is the executive order that allows people to 

22          start certifying for partial unemployment, 

23          and they started certifying -- I believe it 

24          was last week was the first week they could 


                                                                   19

 1          start certifying for that.

 2                 The final fix, which is to rewrite our 

 3          law, will take place in the budget, 

 4          hopefully, and then will be coded into the 

 5          new UI system when it goes live the last 

 6          quarter of 2022.  

 7                 So it's a little confusing, because 

 8          it's not that it can't be implemented.  The 

 9          executive order, which is an emergency order, 

10          is taking place right now.  And in fact 

11          people are able to qualify for this now.  The 

12          final fix can't go into the mainframe system 

13          until we -- you know, we redo the whole 

14          system.  So it's actually two parts.  But 

15          people are certifying for partial 

16          unemployment now.

17                 SENATOR RAMOS:  So, Commissioner, the 

18          interim partial UI policy that has been 

19          implemented disadvantages workers whose hours 

20          don't always correspond with their earnings.  

21                 So for example, a taxi driver who is 

22          on the clock for 12 hours but only has 

23          customers for, say, six hours, would still 

24          lose 50 percent of his benefits.  How are 


                                                                   20

 1          workers supposed to make up for 

 2          lower-than-expected earnings when each hour 

 3          on the clock means they lose more benefits?

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So first of 

 5          all, taxi drivers are independent 

 6          contractors, so they would not qualify as 

 7          employees for standard UI.

 8                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Well, we're going to 

 9          fix that.

10                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Under the CARES 

11          Act they might be able to qualify for PUA, 

12          but they would not qualify for strict 

13          unemployment.

14                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Okay.  Okay.  But if 

15          you can answer the question -- you know, a 

16          barista.

17                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So we -- this 

18          fix is there to allow people to work 

19          part-time and collect partial unemployment.  

20          We have to have some kind of metric to do 

21          that.  

22                 Right now we have the table -- I have 

23          it here somewhere.  I'm sure you know it by 

24          heart.  Zero to four hours, there's no ding 


                                                                   21

 1          on your benefits at all, and then it goes up 

 2          by increments.  You can't earn more than 504 

 3          or you'll lose your entire benefit anyway.

 4                 But this is a way to allow people to 

 5          have some partial work and some partial 

 6          unemployment.

 7                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Right.  So you 

 8          recently issued the order on PUI that 

 9          converts hours into days of work.  We've 

10          heard from workers that are confused about 

11          how to count the hours that they are working, 

12          since they are often spending a lot of time 

13          waiting to work or provide services.

14                 Have you or will you issue guidance on 

15          how ride-share, even gig workers should be 

16          counting their hours of work?

17                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I think that we 

18          are doing as much as we can within the 

19          existing law.  We have a lot of direction up 

20          on the website.  And, you know, if you have 

21          somebody in particular who's having an issue, 

22          of course reach out to us, we'd like to be 

23          able to talk to them about it.

24                 But we are trying to make this work as 


                                                                   22

 1          best we can within the existing law.

 2                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Thank you.

 3                 I wanted to also ask about 

 4          unemployment overpayments.  Many claimants 

 5          have been issued notices that they have to 

 6          pay back federal benefits which they've 

 7          received due to mistakes that the DOL made, 

 8          not the claimants.  There's supposed to be a 

 9          process where claimants can apply for a 

10          waiver, but that application is not yet 

11          available.

12                 When will the waiver application be 

13          made available for workers here in New York?

14                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We are working 

15          on that waiver as we speak.

16                 I should note that overpayments -- 

17          there's a federal regulation that requires 

18          all federal monies that have been overpaid, 

19          whether through an intentional action or an 

20          unintentional mistake, has to be repaid to 

21          the federal government.  We can't -- you 

22          know, we are working within those guidelines 

23          from the feds.

24                 SENATOR RAMOS:  So when -- so when?


                                                                   23

 1                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We are 

 2          developing the waiver right now, but we also 

 3          send out these -- we've sent out these 

 4          overpayment statements frequently.

 5                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Okay.  All right.  I'm 

 6          looking forward to it.  I'll stay on top of 

 7          it.

 8                 I've also heard from my constituents 

 9          that have been trying for weeks and in some 

10          cases even months to sign up for unemployment 

11          benefits but have had problems receiving it 

12          for various reasons.  What has the state done 

13          since the beginning of the pandemic to 

14          modernize and speed up the process of filing 

15          for unemployment?  What's the average wait 

16          time about now?  And what other changes are 

17          you looking to make in order to improve the 

18          efficiency of your system?

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So that is a 

20          great question.  And as you know, at the 

21          beginning of this pandemic we were crushed by 

22          the millions, literally millions of claims 

23          that came in within three weeks.  To date, we 

24          have paid out $65 billion in benefits to over 


                                                                   24

 1          4 million New Yorkers.  And we are very proud 

 2          of that number.

 3                 I know to the person who's struggling 

 4          to get their correct monetary determination 

 5          that remains to be a problem.  But we have 

 6          increased all of our technology.  

 7                 As I said in my opening statement, we 

 8          are now using chatbots in I think nine 

 9          different languages to help people understand 

10          the frequently asked questions.  

11                 We've improved our IVR system so that 

12          we'll look at the date of the claim.  If you 

13          have an old claim, you'll get moved to the 

14          front of the line.  It directs people to the 

15          appropriate agents for the kinds of questions 

16          they ask.  We have other technology that's 

17          being developed -- dashboards for our agents.  

18          It used to be that because it's a mainframe, 

19          an agent, in order to search an individual's 

20          work history, which is why it takes so long, 

21          would have to go into the mainframe and 

22          manipulate it manually -- I mean, on a 

23          keyboard.  But it's a black screen.  It takes 

24          forever.  So we are updating that.


                                                                   25

 1                 We've got bots.  We've got new -- 

 2          we're developing a new single-service frame 

 3          for all the telephone operators to work from.  

 4          As you can imagine, to say that it's building 

 5          the airplane while you're flying it doesn't 

 6          quite touch how crazy --

 7                 SENATOR RAMOS:  That's how government 

 8          works.

 9                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes.  And in a 

10          pandemic, it's a very difficult thing to do.

11                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Indeed.  Well, I only 

12          have a little less than three minutes, so I 

13          want to ask you one more on this round, on 

14          unemployment.  

15                 So between state UI and federal 

16          benefits, claimants can currently receive up 

17          to 70 weeks of benefits.  Those ineligible 

18          may be eligible for PUA, for up to 57 weeks.  

19          Are you aware that there are thousands of 

20          unemployment claimants who have been 

21          improperly put into PUA when they are 

22          actually eligible for New York State 

23          Unemployment Insurance?  What's the DOL doing 

24          to deal with this problem, given that 


                                                                   26

 1          claimants could be losing up to 13 weeks of 

 2          benefits?

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We have a 

 4          system if somebody wants to dispute either 

 5          the amount of their benefit or the way that 

 6          their benefit is assigned.  They can dispute 

 7          it and if it doesn't work, they can ask for a 

 8          hearing.  That is a standard process, and 

 9          everybody is free to go through it.

10                 SENATOR RAMOS:  All right.  I guess I 

11          have time for one more.  

12                 What's the DOL doing to plan for these 

13          large numbers of reapplications -- you know, 

14          I'm thinking about the benefit year expiring 

15          in the beginning of March.  All those 

16          claimants will need to reapply for the 

17          benefits at that time.  What's the DOL doing 

18          to plan for these large numbers of 

19          reapplications, given what happened with the 

20          computer system crashing at the beginning of 

21          the pandemic in March and then in April 

22          again?

23                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes.  Well, 

24          it's actually --


                                                                   27

 1                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Or is the computer 

 2          going to crash again now that everybody's 

 3          going to have to reapply?

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  That's a 

 5          wonderful question.  One of the things we did 

 6          was improve the entryway into the system so 

 7          it's now on the Google Cloud, which can scale 

 8          up infinitely.  

 9                 One of the reasons the mainframe 

10          crashed is it could only handle so much 

11          traffic at a time; that's what a mainframe 

12          does.  So we've already resolved that 

13          particular issue.

14                 We are working on other tech fixes 

15          because we are painfully aware of these 

16          deadlines.  We are also very hopeful that the 

17          Biden administration will pass another CARES 

18          Act or some other version that will extend -- 

19          we're hearing it might extend it to 

20          September.  So all of this is being done at 

21          the same time.  

22                 PUA people don't need to reapply; they 

23          are seamlessly going into their extended 

24          benefits.  If your year ends, then you have 


                                                                   28

 1          to reapply.  But, you know, we are looking at 

 2          all of this.

 3                 What has been happening, and it 

 4          happened in the recession in 2008-2009, the 

 5          federal government watches the economy and 

 6          they decide people will still need benefits 

 7          for X period of time, and they extend the 

 8          benefits.  Ultimately, in 2008-2009, it was 

 9          99 weeks of unemployment.  So we are watching 

10          this carefully to make sure to see what 

11          happens.  We are very hopeful that they will 

12          pass the law that they're looking at right 

13          now, which would extend benefits into 

14          September.

15                 SENATOR RAMOS:  All right.  Well, 

16          thank you, Commissioner.  

17                 And Chair Krueger, sign me up for a 

18          second round if it's available.  Thank you.

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

20                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

21                 Second rounds are available to chairs.

22                 Assembly.

23                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  And we go to 

24          our Labor chair, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner.


                                                                   29

 1                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Okay, thank 

 2          you.  And good afternoon, Commissioner.  Good 

 3          to see you.

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Good afternoon.  

 5          Nice to see you.

 6                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  I want to thank 

 7          everybody for participating in today's budget 

 8          hearing.  As we all know, 2020 was a 

 9          difficult year for everyone, including all 

10          New Yorkers, and has left scars on our 

11          economy that have yet to fully heal.

12                 I also want to echo the sentiments 

13          that were previously raised.  Many of my 

14          constituents, you know, faced difficulties 

15          accessing the filing system, many still, you 

16          know, without the ability to get the funding 

17          that they're owed from March.  So I'm also 

18          echoing that, you know, DOL -- we love the 

19          partnership of stepping up to resolve these 

20          claims in a very timely manner.

21                 My first question is regarding the UI 

22          unemployment benefits.  We're facing a 

23          historic unemployment spike, as you know, 

24          with New York borrowing $10 billion from the 


                                                                   30

 1          federal government.  Do you know what 

 2          employers should expect their maximum rate 

 3          should go up by as a result of the state's 

 4          negative balance in the UI trust fund?

 5                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So first I want 

 6          to congratulate the Legislature for working 

 7          with us after the 2009 recession, because you 

 8          passed UI reform, which was very, very 

 9          important in strengthening the trust fund.  

10                 So we came into this pandemic with a 

11          $2.6 billion balance in the trust fund, which 

12          at the time, of course, was thought to be 

13          very healthy.  Then the pandemic happened and 

14          then we had to start borrowing eventually.  

15                 Forty-seven percent of the states are 

16          currently borrowing or have put in the 

17          paperwork to borrow, so we're hardly alone in 

18          that piece of it.  We have been fortunate, 

19          the federal government last year in the CARES 

20          Act, the Congress allowed the interest to be 

21          waived on these loans, so that helped 

22          businesses.

23                 And I should point out that 

24          three-quarters of the $65 billion being paid 


                                                                   31

 1          out, of course, is federal funds.  So that 

 2          does not fall on New York State employers at 

 3          all.

 4                 We are looking, we're getting ready to 

 5          do next year's rates on unemployment.  My 

 6          recent order to alleviate the charges for 

 7          last year for pandemic unemployment against 

 8          the employers will be very helpful.  We 

 9          understand that many businesses had no choice 

10          but to close, so they weren't forcing their 

11          workers out into unemployment, it happened to 

12          all of them.  So there will not be a charge 

13          for pandemic unemployment the way there would 

14          have been under normal unemployment.

15                 The rates will go up because there is, 

16          you know, this loan balance.  But we don't 

17          know what the amount will be yet, we're still 

18          working on it.  And we're very hopeful that 

19          the Biden administration will help with 

20          either eliminating the interest or, more 

21          importantly, eliminating some, at least, of 

22          this burden for all the states.

23                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Okay, and 

24          that's the follow-up question regarding the 


                                                                   32

 1          interest assessment surcharges.  Should 

 2          employers expect to pay that as a one-time 

 3          payment at the end of the year, will it be 

 4          done quarterly?  What arrangement do you 

 5          foresee at this time?

 6                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I really don't 

 7          know at this point, to be honest.  I'd have 

 8          to get back to you on that.

 9                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Okay.  And then 

10          I also want to echo what you said in terms of 

11          being on the record of, you know, asking the 

12          federal government to provide total 

13          forgiveness of all expenses during this time 

14          related to the pandemic.

15                 My other question is regarding 

16          workforce development.  This budget provides 

17          for 50 million for COVID-19 recovery 

18          workforce -- the Recovery Workforce 

19          Initiative.  Can you explain a little bit 

20          more about this?  

21                 It sounds like a very great idea, but, 

22          you know, we're always curious about the 

23          details.  So basically, what's the source of 

24          the revenue for this program?  How will it be 


                                                                   33

 1          distributed?  And how can people participate 

 2          in this new initiative?

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So this program 

 4          is actually being run by the Governor's 

 5          Office of Workforce Development on the 

 6          Executive Chamber level.  It's a relatively 

 7          new office from several years ago.  

 8                 And I should point out that workforce 

 9          development, while we like to claim at the 

10          Department of Labor that it's all ours, it 

11          isn't really.  There are other pieces of 

12          agencies that also do workforce development.  

13          And we depend on all of our partners to do a 

14          good job for everybody in the state.

15                 The Governor's Office actually is the 

16          coordinator of all of these programs.  So ESD 

17          works with them, DOL works with them, other 

18          places -- you know, OCFS has a program, OTDA 

19          has a program.  So we all work together, and 

20          it's more coordinated that way.  So it's 

21          great.

22                 We often -- the role that the DOL 

23          often plays in these kinds of programs is 

24          we're a connector.  We have 4 million people 


                                                                   34

 1          that are in our system from unemployment.  

 2          They are all people looking for work, 

 3          potentially -- now some of them have probably 

 4          gone back to work.  But we have all of their 

 5          information.  So we are great resource as 

 6          these programs begin to roll out.  As 

 7          companies say, I'm opening this kind of 

 8          company, I need workers with these kinds of 

 9          skills, we can look in our talent bank and 

10          assess who do we have in that region who has 

11          skills or skills-adjacent that, with a little 

12          bit of training, could be ready for those 

13          jobs.

14                 So we have a lot of on the ground -- 

15          boots on the ground work that we do in these 

16          kinds of programs.  This is a very large 

17          program, obviously, and it is still -- the 

18          details are still being worked out.  It's 

19          very exciting.  You know, we understand 

20          intimately what it's like to have people on 

21          unemployment, and what we really want to do, 

22          along with all of our partners in the state 

23          and in the communities, is make sure they get 

24          training that they need and they get 


                                                                   35

 1          connected to good family-sustaining jobs.

 2                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Right, thank 

 3          you.  And we really would appreciate more 

 4          details on this.  

 5                 You know, there's been other 

 6          initiatives that the Governor has proposed, 

 7          such as in 2018 this new Office of Workforce 

 8          Development, which was for $175 million, for 

 9          the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  

10                 You know, I just would like more 

11          clarification of what are these initiatives 

12          currently doing to address the need to help 

13          rebuild our economy, especially with our 

14          retraining folks to get back into the 

15          workforce.  Especially now, during this 

16          COVID-19, everybody has had to pivot, so how 

17          have these initiatives been stepping up to 

18          the plate during this time.  

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Right.  So, you 

20          know, with a lot of the workforce development 

21          grants that we do, they're across the state, 

22          they're often retraining or up-skilling for 

23          workers.  Sometimes it's incumbent workers, 

24          sometimes it's new workers.  And in some of 


                                                                   36

 1          those cases with WIOA, we are actually the 

 2          authority that takes the federal funds from 

 3          the federal government and approves it, you 

 4          know, for a local program.  

 5                 They're extremely varied.  Many of 

 6          them are very local.  But they're great 

 7          opportunities for communities to come 

 8          together around their needs.

 9                 I'd be happy to have, you know, a more 

10          detailed conversation, particularly about 

11          what your district is doing, because it's 

12          very exciting work.  Even through the 

13          pandemic, these people did not stop thinking 

14          about how can we retrain people, how can we 

15          put people back to work.

16                 One of the great things for us with 

17          the new virtual services that we're doing, 

18          we're able to work with our customers on the 

19          phone and on the Web.  We have virtual Career 

20          Fairs up now, and soon we'll have a Virtual 

21          Career Center available.  And that's going to 

22          be able to give people a lot more robust 

23          support.  They will never replace our highly 

24          valued and highly skilled and trained Career 


                                                                   37

 1          Center workers, but it will free them from 

 2          perhaps more monotonous work and allow them 

 3          to spend more time working directly with the 

 4          customers when we can gather again 

 5          face-to-face.

 6                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  So I'm sure I 

 7          join with many of my colleagues in wanting to 

 8          see how this is showing up in each of our 

 9          districts.

10                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I'd love to 

11          have that conversation.

12                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  So with the 

13          federal CARES funding, how much has the 

14          agency received?  And what has been done with 

15          the funding?  

16                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So the CARES 

17          Act comes to the DOL in lots of different 

18          ways.  We have five new federal Unemployment 

19          Insurance benefits that were authorized by 

20          the CARES Act, so Pandemic Unemployment, PUA, 

21          Extended Benefits, which was paid for by the 

22          federal government.  The Pandemic 

23          Unemployment Compensation was paid for.  Lost 

24          Wages was a short program that the Trump 


                                                                   38

 1          administration ran of $300 a week; that was 

 2          late August, early September.  FPUC, which 

 3          was the $600 a week that everybody got until 

 4          it ended in July, and now the $300 that's 

 5          been reauthorized.

 6                 So a lot of the CARES Act money comes 

 7          to us through the Unemployment Insurance 

 8          program, and then of course we get 

 9          administrative money on top of that.

10                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  All right.  One 

11          last question with this round.

12                 So the Executive Budget is proposing 

13          to require all employees up to four hours 

14          paid leave to receive vaccine injections.  

15          Some companies, like Instacart, have been 

16          offering stipends to help offset wage loss 

17          during this time to go and get vaccines.  How 

18          does the department plan to encourage other 

19          companies to offer similar incentives?

20                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  You know, I 

21          hadn't really thought about that in 

22          particular to this instance, but of course we 

23          work all the time with employers, giving them 

24          support on COVID issues.  We communicate with 


                                                                   39

 1          them constantly.  There's been -- at the 

 2          beginning there was a lot of confusion about 

 3          how do I make my place safe for people to 

 4          work in, what are the rules, what are the 

 5          leave rules.

 6                 So we can certainly talk to them about 

 7          that as well.

 8                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Okay, thank 

 9          you.

10                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Thank you.

11                 We go to the Senate.

12                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

13          much.  And we have our chair of Civil 

14          Service, Andrew Gounardes, but he has five 

15          minutes for this commissioner.

16                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you 

17          very much, Senator Krueger.

18                 Hi, Commissioner.  How are you?  A lot 

19          of my questions were already asked, but I do 

20          have a couple of quick things I wanted to 

21          touch on.

22                 Number one, following up on the 

23          Assemblywoman's questions about -- and your 

24          comments about workplace safety and working 


                                                                   40

 1          with employers.  Can you tell us how many 

 2          complaints the Department of Labor received 

 3          over the last year about workplace safety as 

 4          it relates to COVID regulations and 

 5          guidelines, through your website?

 6                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We received 

 7          over 36,500 complaints on the COVID hotline.  

 8          And I'm very happy to say that approximately 

 9          80 percent of those complaints were resolved 

10          with compliance.

11                 Particularly at the beginning, as you 

12          can imagine, there was a lot of confusion 

13          about can I stay open, should I close, what 

14          kinds of protections do I have to provide, 

15          can people not come in if they don't feel 

16          safe.  So we did a lot of work with employers 

17          and explained a lot of the new regulations.  

18          And for the most part, as you can see, over 

19          80 percent of them complied.  

20                 You know, I think most employers want 

21          to have a safe workplace.  They don't want to 

22          get sick, they don't want their customers to 

23          get sick, and they certainly don't want to 

24          lose their employees.


                                                                   41

 1                 For the employers who were 

 2          recalcitrant and refused to adapt to the new 

 3          rules, we would refer them to county or local 

 4          authorities who have legal opportunities to 

 5          enforce these rules.  But over 80 percent of 

 6          them were good players and happy to have the 

 7          help.

 8                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great, thank you.  

 9          And could you give us a sense of those 

10          complaints, how many were, you know, in the 

11          first, let's say, three months of the 

12          pandemic, how many were in the last three 

13          months?  Do you have any of that --

14                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I don't have 

15          that here.  I could find it for you.  I would 

16          be willing to bet that there were more in the 

17          first three months than there were later.  

18          But, you know, let's get you a number.

19                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  All right, that 

20          would be great, just to see how people were 

21          complying as you guys were preparing.  

22          Long-term, we want to make sure that people 

23          are staying vigilant.  And, you know, I know 

24          that that's the source of some of the 


                                                                   42

 1          legislation that we are already working on in 

 2          the Legislature to ensure workplace safety 

 3          and protections moving forward.

 4                 Can you tell me, how many of your 

 5          department's employees have been brought back 

 6          to work?  Are they all remote?  Are they back 

 7          in person?  Is there a mix?  Can you give us 

 8          a sense?

 9                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So at the 

10          beginning the majority, the overwhelming 

11          majority of DOL workers worked remotely.  We 

12          were very fortunate because we had already 

13          piloted a remote working program so that we 

14          had some of the -- we didn't have all of it, 

15          we had some of the laptops, the phones and 

16          all of that available.  And some of our 

17          workers already knew how to do it.  And we 

18          had a plan.

19                 So we were able to roll that out 

20          relatively -- relatively easy.  And a lot of 

21          people have remained remote for a long time.  

22          People are beginning to come back into the 

23          building, often for just one day a week, to 

24          check in with their group and, you know, 


                                                                   43

 1          check in with their supervisors.  We have -- 

 2          we have employees who have always worked in 

 3          the building.  I have been physically in 

 4          Building 12 in Albany since March; I go home 

 5          on the weekends.  But I and my senior staff 

 6          have all been here.  

 7                 And we take incredible precautions:  

 8          masks, hand washing stations.  We have a -- 

 9          everybody -- if you're coming into the 

10          building, you must -- even if you're a 

11          visitor, you have to fill out the 

12          questionnaire, there's a temperature station.

13                 And we tell all of our workers, 

14          please, if you do not feel well, don't come 

15          to work.  Because it's not good for you and 

16          it's not good for the rest of us.  And for 

17          the most part, people are really good about 

18          it.  

19                 They -- you know, it is -- Building 12 

20          and New York City, of course, are our two 

21          largest offices, but we have 96 Career 

22          Centers across the state.  Those Career 

23          Centers are not going to open for a while.  

24          Some of them have been open for people to 


                                                                   44

 1          come in and do back-office work, but we're 

 2          not going to open to the public until we know 

 3          it's safe to gather.

 4                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  If you can 

 5          just give us a general sense -- I understand 

 6          that it's a fluctuating number.  You know, is 

 7          it 15 percent of employees have come back, is 

 8          it 85 percent?  You know, even if it's one 

 9          day a week, two days a week.  I'm just 

10          curious to see -- you know, as a lot of 

11          government agencies have announced plans to 

12          return back to work, I'm curious to see where 

13          you're at with your workforce.

14                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  You know, I'd 

15          have to get you that number.  I don't 

16          actually know what the percentage is.  You 

17          know, anecdotally I know that there are more 

18          people in Building 12 now than there were two 

19          months ago, on a rotating basis, but I 

20          don't -- I'll get you a number.

21                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Sure, great.

22                 And just the last question before my 

23          time expires, last year we passed and the 

24          Governor signed Chapter 168, which requires 


                                                                   45

 1          all public agencies to put forth workforce 

 2          safety plans that are made publicly 

 3          available, in coordination with, you know, 

 4          employee representatives.  Can you give us an 

 5          update -- and those are supposed to be done 

 6          by April 1st of this year.

 7                 Can you give us a sense as to where 

 8          the department's plans are in the planning 

 9          process and whether --

10                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So --

11                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  -- you'll meet the 

12          April 1st deadline.

13                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  The acronym is 

14          COOP, and we are all over it.  I think we 

15          have submitted it to our deputy secretary.  

16          If she doesn't have it now, she'll have it 

17          soon.  It's an important thing to do.

18                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Great, 

19          thank you.

20                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, thank you 

21          very much.  Assembly?

22                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We go to, 

23          actually, for three minutes, Assemblyman 

24          Schmitt.


                                                                   46

 1                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  And as he's 

 2          turning on his mic, we've been joined by 

 3          Senator Tedisco as well.  Thank you.

 4                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  Thank you, 

 5          Chairwoman.  Thank you, Commissioner, for 

 6          making the time for us today.  Sorry, we're 

 7          juggling several Zooms at once here.

 8                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I understand.

 9                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  I appreciate our 

10          conversation at the beginning of the pandemic 

11          with the concern a lot of my constituents 

12          had, and I know you and your employees have 

13          been overworked with the influx that none of 

14          us were expecting.

15                 I had a couple of questions.  Mainly, 

16          I've read recently about California having 

17          massive issues with pandemic UI fraud, over 

18          $11 billion confirmed, over $19 billion 

19          suspected.  What are the numbers that we're 

20          concerned with here in New York when it comes 

21          to that?

22                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So let me just 

23          give a little bit of background on this.  

24          There's always fraud in the UI system.  


                                                                   47

 1          Usually it's more home-grown, somebody files 

 2          for 10 people at their address.  It's 

 3          relatively easy to find.  And in the old UI 

 4          system, you had to have income that we could 

 5          see.  So, you know, your employer had to 

 6          register your wages, we could look at it, we 

 7          could -- you know, it was very, very 

 8          transparent.  And fraud was much easier to 

 9          find.

10                 With Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, 

11          all you had to do for PUA was to self-attest, 

12          I am -- basically, I am eligible for this 

13          insurance, and to make it very simple, you 

14          would get it.  We didn't have a lot of the 

15          doors that you had to go through.

16                 The fraudsters immediately figured 

17          this out.  Plus, I should point out, the FPUC 

18          payment of $600 a week, plus if you could get 

19          the top 504, you could pull in 1104 a week in 

20          one fraudulent claim.  So there were 

21          international fraud crime syndicates that 

22          have come into this market, and they have 

23          been very smart about it, they went into the 

24          Dark Web and they bought people's identity, 


                                                                   48

 1          down to your last two employers.  They had 

 2          identity that you could use for a straight-up 

 3          UI claim.  So it was a very big problem.

 4                 We have -- you know, we have worked 

 5          very hard with this.  And to be very clear, 

 6          at the beginning the CARES Act was signed 

 7          March 28th, I think.  The very first federal 

 8          guidance for how to administer it didn't come 

 9          until April 7th --

10                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  I'm sorry to 

11          interrupt, I've just run out of time and I 

12          want to make sure I get to the --

13                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Oh, sorry 

14          {inaudible overtalk}.

15                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  Do you have a -- 

16          I know -- do you have a rough estimate of --

17                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  $9.5 billion 

18          prevented.

19                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  Prevented.  Do 

20          you know how much are you still concerned 

21          with?

22                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We -- that's 

23          kind of a rolling number.  We've got some 

24          great new technology that's coming in that's 


                                                                   49

 1          going to help us even more.  But we do know 

 2          9.5 prevented.

 3                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  Prevented.  And 

 4          when are you prepared to release how much 

 5          that wasn't prevented, like these other 

 6          states -- Ohio, California, Kansas --

 7                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yeah, I'm going 

 8          to have to see what we've got.  Remember, 

 9          this is $65 billion went out the door, so 

10          it's a remarkably small amount, considering.  

11          But yes.

12                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  So what am I 

13          supposed to tell my constituents if they 

14          start getting 1099s that are fraudulent --

15                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  If it's 

16          fraudulent, they call us.  Absolutely, let us 

17          know.

18                 ASSEMBLYMAN SCHMITT:  Thank you.

19                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

20                 Next is Senator Borrello.

21                 George, are you there?

22                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  Can you hear me?  I 

23          can't turn my video on, but --

24                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, we can hear 


                                                                   50

 1          you.

 2                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  Okay, hello. 

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Hi.

 4                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  There you are.

 5                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  There you are.

 6                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  All right.  Yes, 

 7          thank you, Commissioner.  Thanks for being 

 8          here today.  

 9                 I will get right to my question.  

10          First of all, I'm certainly glad to see that 

11          you went to calculating unemployment based on 

12          hours and not days.  That's a big help to 

13          business owners as well as people that are 

14          partially unemployed.

15                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  You're welcome.

16                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  (Laughing.)  But 

17          when it comes to paid sick leave, this is 

18          kind of the same situation.  You have 

19          employers who employ people that are 

20          part-time, you have seasonal businesses and 

21          things like that, but yet the threshold is 

22          based strictly on the number of employees.

23                 So why would you not apply the same 

24          principle and go to FTEs, full-time 


                                                                   51

 1          equivalents, versus just the number of people 

 2          employed?  Because I've heard this from many 

 3          small businesses, not-for-profits, you know, 

 4          companies that are right now hanging on by a 

 5          thread, that are now going to be unduly 

 6          burdened with this based on the number of 

 7          employees and not based on FTEs.

 8                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So it's a good 

 9          question.  I just want to point out, and I 

10          mean this in the best possible way, I only 

11          enforce the laws.  So, you know, I'm not a 

12          legislator.  I'm happy to enforce whatever 

13          laws that you and the Governor pass.  But, 

14          you know, I'm limited by what the laws say.

15                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  Well, you know, 

16          when we discussed this originally when it was 

17          passed, you know, there was this -- we were 

18          told that this would be something that the 

19          DOL could fix, essentially, quote, unquote. 

20                 And I realize that there are often 

21          vagaries in these laws that -- gray areas.  

22          But in this particular case, would you not 

23          agree that, you know, someone who has a 

24          hundred part-time employees is obviously 


                                                                   52

 1          going to be unfairly burdened, compared to 

 2          someone who has 100 full-time employees or a 

 3          seasonal operation that doesn't operate 

 4          year-round?

 5                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So, you know, 

 6          it's a pretty general statement.  I'd have to 

 7          actually look at more details to engage on 

 8          this.  But, you know, we could certainly have 

 9          that conversation offline.

10                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  All right.  So 

11          you're saying that in order to change this, 

12          it needs to be changed in the law, the 

13          Legislature would have to take an action in 

14          order to level the playing field for our 

15          small businesses.

16                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I think so.

17                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  Okay.  Well, that's 

18          my question.  And on the unemployment claims, 

19          since I have a few seconds left here, I will 

20          say that, you know, like everybody else we 

21          were inundated.  And I know that you all 

22          worked very hard to try and address people as 

23          quickly as possible, people calling from 

24          their homes, on their cellphones, on the 


                                                                   53

 1          weekends, at night.  So trust me, we were at 

 2          the tip of the spear dealing with people that 

 3          were caught up in this system that had 

 4          nowhere to go that were, you know, worried 

 5          about where their next -- you know, really 

 6          where their next meal was going to come from, 

 7          in some cases.

 8                 So I know it was awfully difficult to 

 9          deal with, and I appreciate the upgrades that 

10          you've made.  Hopefully this will -- we'll 

11          never have to deal with this again.

12                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

13                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

14                 SENATOR BORRELLO:  At 25 seconds.

15                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We've been 

17          joined by Assemblyman De La Rosa, 

18          Assemblymember Giglio, Assemblyman Bronson, 

19          Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon -- I'm not sure 

20          if I mentioned her already.

21                 And we go to Assemblyman Ra for five 

22          minutes.

23                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Thank you, 

24          Chairwoman.  Commissioner, good afternoon.


                                                                   54

 1                 I'd be remiss if I didn't start by 

 2          just saying thank you to your staff.  I think 

 3          at the height of this, like all of our 

 4          offices, we were probably communicating with 

 5          the Department of Labor more than our own 

 6          families --

 7                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes.

 8                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  -- on behalf of our 

 9          constituents.  So I know it was very 

10          difficult circumstances, and I thank them for 

11          their assistance over that time.

12                 I just wanted to follow-up with regard 

13          to the Unemployment Insurance, and 

14          specifically the Title XII advances.  I know 

15          you mentioned that, you know, the solvency 

16          coming in was good.  But am I correct there 

17          was a report that talked about our solvency 

18          level and there's a threshold that would be 

19          required to allow the state to -- when they 

20          have to take those types of loans, to do so 

21          without interest?  

22                 Is there any update on that solvency 

23          level?  I think it was about 0.36 and it 

24          needs to be 1 percent.


                                                                   55

 1                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I don't know.  

 2          Let me find out for you.  I'm not familiar 

 3          with that.

 4                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Okay.  I'd appreciate 

 5          that.  Obviously that is -- as we're trying 

 6          to repay that, you know, it does have the 

 7          potential to have an impact on our 

 8          businesses.  

 9                 The other thing I wanted to just ask a 

10          little bit about was, you know, different 

11          measures were obviously taken to deal with 

12          what was really an emergency situation to get 

13          claims processed.  And I know there were 

14          partnerships formed with KeyBank.  

15                 And some concerns have been raised 

16          about, you know, the kind of regional nature 

17          of that bank and the lack of facilities, 

18          particularly downstate and in New York City.  

19          So I'm just wondering if -- you know, is the 

20          department looking at other types of 

21          partnerships that -- you know, to expand the 

22          network to banks that might be more 

23          accessible to people downstate?

24                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So a couple of 


                                                                   56

 1          things.  First of all, yes, KeyBank is a 

 2          state vendor, it wasn't just us.  They're on 

 3          a state contract.  And yes, we are 

 4          reexamining that. 

 5                 But I want to correct -- this was a 

 6          news story that was out there, and we had 

 7          trouble with -- I think it was early in the 

 8          summer, they were running a number of stories 

 9          saying there were long lines of people in New 

10          York City on 22nd Street because it was the 

11          only KeyBank where they could get their 

12          money.  Not true.  Patently not true.  

13                 There are over a thousand ATMs across 

14          the state, many of them in New York City, 

15          where our customers can retrieve their money 

16          without any charge.  And for whatever reason, 

17          this news outlet decided to continue to pump 

18          out that story for probably two weeks.  And 

19          it was difficult, we had people assaulting us 

20          about it.  And I said, you know, we -- the 

21          list of, you know, the vendors was -- the 

22          ATMs was on KeyBank's website and it was on 

23          our website.

24                 But this is an example of, you know, 


                                                                   57

 1          what happened during the pandemic.  People 

 2          panicked, they read something somewhere on 

 3          Twitter or Facebook or, in this case, in the 

 4          newspaper, and they assumed that that was the 

 5          truth, and they lined up for hours in front 

 6          of this bank.  Which was totally unnecessary.  

 7                 That said, we are looking at other 

 8          vendors for our business, but KeyBank is a 

 9          state vendor.

10                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Thank you.  And I 

11          appreciate you correcting, you know, the 

12          public record on that situation.  That's good 

13          to hear.

14                 The other thing, obviously, that had 

15          to be done was, you know, bringing in some 

16          new public or vendors and things of that 

17          nature to process claims.  Do you have any 

18          estimate on what that looked like in terms of 

19          how many people had to be brought in -- 

20          different companies, vendors, individuals?

21                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Sure.  So when 

22          we first got crushed by the wave, the first 

23          thing we did was to pull other workers from 

24          DOL from other workstations and bring them 


                                                                   58

 1          into the UI system and train them to deliver 

 2          the services.  Then state workers came over 

 3          to assist us in that effort.  I think at one 

 4          point we had 3,000 state workers working with 

 5          us.  They all had to be trained, because it's 

 6          not a simple, you know -- it's not a simple 

 7          thing to do.

 8                 Eventually we realized we were not 

 9          staffing our way out of this and we had to 

10          get third-party vendors.  We had, I think, 

11          four vendors, and I think at the height in 

12          August we had I believe 2800 vendors.  But we 

13          are now beginning to reduce, we're down to 

14          1300.  

15                 And we are -- I'm very happy to say, 

16          now, because of federal funding, we are able 

17          to begin to hire hourly and permanent 

18          New York State staff to come in and work with 

19          us, which is what we've always wanted to do.  

20          They will be trained for these jobs, they 

21          will be, you know, in our system, and we can 

22          reduce the -- if not get rid of completely -- 

23          the vendors that we had to rely on.

24                 But it was simply a numbers game.  


                                                                   59

 1          There was no way we could do it without them.

 2                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Okay, thank you, 

 3          Commissioner.

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

 6          much.  Our next speaker is Senator Diane 

 7          Savino.

 8                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Senator -- 

 9          Senator Savino, before you go, I just wanted 

10          to announce for any members of the Assembly, 

11          that session was ending, that if you want to 

12          vote as an exception to the party vote that's 

13          taking place, you should contact the Majority 

14          or Minority Leader as soon as possible.  

15          Thank you.

16                 And now to the Senate.  Thank you, 

17          Liz.

18                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

19                 Senator Diane Savino.

20                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Thank you, Senator 

21          Krueger.  Good to see you, Commissioner.

22                 So I'm not going to ask you the last 

23          four questions that Assemblyman Ra asked you 

24          because I got the answers I wanted to those 


                                                                   60

 1          questions.  I do want to go back, though, 

 2          to -- first of all, I want to thank you for 

 3          all of your efforts to all of our 

 4          constituents across the state in an 

 5          extraordinarily difficult time during the 

 6          pandemic and the tremendous strain on the 

 7          unemployment system.  You know, you mentioned 

 8          your ability to avoid the unnecessary fraud.  

 9                 I participated in a government tech 

10          conference just last month, and we were 

11          astounded to find out that the State of 

12          California was unable to avoid that.  They 

13          paid out $12 billion in fraudulent claims.  

14          The State of Washington, $650 million.  Even 

15          the little State of Montana, $10 million.  So 

16          the fact that we were able to do so I think 

17          is a testament to you and your staff.

18                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

19                 SENATOR SAVINO:  But I am a little 

20          concerned as we go forward because you had to 

21          pull so many people from so many other 

22          places, and we know we're going to face this 

23          again.  We were able to kind of ramp up with, 

24          you know, the Google Cloud, but we still have 


                                                                   61

 1          a lot of challenges on the tech side.  So I'm 

 2          curious as to all of the people who are 

 3          working remotely.  

 4                 Were you able to provide them with the 

 5          technology from the department, or are they 

 6          utilizing their own equipment?  Because that 

 7          could be a concern with respect to 

 8          cybersecurity issues.

 9                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Right.

10                 SENATOR SAVINO:  There were other 

11          agencies, and I'm not going to mention them, 

12          in the City of New York, where people are 

13          utilizing their own equipment and taking in 

14          personal information.  We've seen ransomware 

15          attacks and cybersecurity leaks all across 

16          city and state agencies, and I'm hoping to 

17          avoid that going forward.  So can you speak 

18          about that briefly.

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Sure.

20                 SENATOR SAVINO:  And then the final 

21          thing I'd like you to address is how are we 

22          doing on wage-theft claims?  And I'll leave 

23          it at that.

24                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  I favor it.


                                                                   62

 1                 So first of all, they all had state 

 2          equipment and they all worked on safe, 

 3          encrypted systems.  So -- because we were 

 4          very aware of that.  The last thing you want 

 5          to do -- UI has very strong federal 

 6          guidelines for, you know, confidentiality.  

 7          Everybody takes confidentiality training, we 

 8          have to make sure everybody's information is 

 9          secure.  So they had our equipment from jump, 

10          which was great.  And, you know, it made it 

11          much easier, frankly.

12                 There are still a lot of tech things 

13          that we are actually working on.  We have 

14          more bots.  I know more about bots in the 

15          last 10 months than I knew probably my entire 

16          life.  They're great, I love them, but we're 

17          employing more and more of them.  

18                 We did have the Google Cloud, so that 

19          can scale out to handle the incoming.  We 

20          had -- you know, the IVR now is able to 

21          figure out what agent you need to talk to.  

22          We have an excellent communication program 

23          with our claimants that we never had before, 

24          between GovDelivery and DocuSign, we are able 


                                                                   63

 1          to help them achieve their needs without ever 

 2          having to talk to a human being at all, which 

 3          is really remarkable.  

 4                 And the GovDelivery we send out -- we 

 5          sent out, I think, 58 million texts and 

 6          emails saying this is where you are in the 

 7          process, this is what you need to do next 

 8          week, so that people aren't sitting in the 

 9          dark, which is what they used to do.

10                 SENATOR SAVINO:  I think I'm out of 

11          time.  So if you could get back to me on wage 

12          theft, we can talk about it offline, I'd 

13          really appreciate it --

14                 (Overtalk.)

15                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Absolutely.  

16          Thank you.

17                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Thank you.  Great to 

18          see you.

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Nice to see 

20          you.

21                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you, 

22          Senator.

23                 Assemblymember.

24                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We go to 


                                                                   64

 1          Assemblyman Steck for three minutes.

 2                 ASSEMBLYMAN STECK:  I've got two 

 3          computers going, one for session and one for 

 4          this hearing.

 5                 (Laughter.)

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Okay, well, log 

 7          onto the right one.

 8                 ASSEMBLYMAN STECK:  No, I'm logged on, 

 9          but it's the voice and the video.

10                 So first of all, I want to thank the 

11          commissioner for her frequent visits to my 

12          district.  Always a pleasure to see you when 

13          we were not in the pandemic.  

14                 And also, you know, I know that you're 

15          working very hard to address these issues 

16          with the unemployment system.  I want to say 

17          thank you also to your staff, because our 

18          office's experience, though there was a lot 

19          of hard work involved, we did find that the 

20          employees that we dealt with were very, very 

21          helpful.

22                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

23                 ASSEMBLYMAN STECK:  I just have one 

24          question, and that relates to the renewal of 


                                                                   65

 1          a program which seemed along the lines of 

 2          what you were talking about in your opening 

 3          remarks, and that's the New York State Shared 

 4          Work Program, which allows employers to 

 5          retain their employees during times of 

 6          temporary business shutdowns by reducing an 

 7          employee's hours and earnings, but avoiding 

 8          layoffs.  This allows employees to receive 

 9          partial Unemployment Insurance benefits while 

10          continuing to work at reduced hours.

11                 I just want to express my support for 

12          renewing that program.

13                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So it doesn't 

14          really go away.  We've had it for a long 

15          time.  The great thing is when the pandemic 

16          hit and everything went kerflooey, we 

17          realized that -- that's a technical term -- 

18          we realized that shared work was going to be 

19          very, very key to getting people back to 

20          work.  So we made sure that we got everybody 

21          online using it -- since they used to use 

22          paper, imagine.  So we made it online, we 

23          digitized it, we sent out lots of information 

24          to our employers.  And there's a very robust 


                                                                   66

 1          employment, pardon the expression, of shared 

 2          work now.  It's a great program.

 3                 It doesn't expire; it's 26 weeks of 

 4          shared work coverage right now.  And then, 

 5          you know, they have to either go on regular 

 6          unemployment or whatever.  But, you know, 

 7          it's still a program, and it is a great 

 8          program.  I -- you know, there are a lot of 

 9          employers who should use it.  Now that 

10          they're coming back in -- particularly like 

11          restaurants that have not been able to be 

12          open because of the pandemic, you know, now 

13          they can come back and use the shared-work 

14          program to fluctuate as they get their feet 

15          back under them.

16                 But thank you.  It is a terrific 

17          program.  We're really very proud of it.  And 

18          New York State I think has one of the highest 

19          usages of shared work in the country.

20                 ASSEMBLYMAN STECK:  Okay.  Well, thank 

21          you very much for that.  And we did get some 

22          concerns from employers that they had a 

23          little bit of difficulty getting this done.  

24          And I think, based on my review of that 


                                                                   67

 1          letter and your comments, it does seem that 

 2          it's ongoing and it may have been just 

 3          because it's now computerized, it may have 

 4          been just part and parcel of the overall 

 5          influx of the tremendous amount of claims 

 6          that you were handling.

 7                 So thank you for your support for that 

 8          program.

 9                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Sure.  And if 

10          you have an individual case that has a 

11          particular problem, of course reach out to 

12          me.

13                 ASSEMBLYMAN STECK:  Okay, we will do 

14          that.  Thank you.

15                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Okay.  Thank 

16          you.

17                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Thank you.

18                 We go to the Senate now.

19                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

20          much.  

21                 Senator Pete Harckham, three minutes.

22                 SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you very 

23          much, Madam Chair.  Commissioner, good to see 

24          you.


                                                                   68

 1                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

 2                 SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Let me start my 

 3          video.  There we go.

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Good to see 

 5          you.

 6                 (Laughter.)

 7                 SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Good to be seen.

 8                 I join my colleagues in complimenting 

 9          you and your team.  It was a very rough year.  

10          It wasn't always pretty.  But, you know, once 

11          we got a direct line into your office, we 

12          were able to clear a lot of cases from our 

13          office.  So thank you very much for that.

14                 I want to ask you something a little 

15          bit different.  You know, because of the 

16          pandemic, it's been estimated that a quarter 

17          to a third of our small businesses have been 

18          lost.  Those are not coming back.  Because 

19          we've changed the way we do business, entire 

20          job categories and industries may not be 

21          coming back.  So we hear talk now about -- 

22          and this -- we heard it back in the last 

23          recession, about the permanently unemployed.  

24          You know, people who used to have good 


                                                                   69

 1          skills, good jobs, and they've just gone away 

 2          and now they're permanently unemployed.

 3                 What's your strategy going forward to 

 4          deal with the folks who have been severely 

 5          dislocated due to the pandemic?

 6                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  It's an 

 7          excellent question.  And it's something that 

 8          we have been discussing since probably the 

 9          second or third month of the pandemic, 

10          because I realized pretty quickly, with the 

11          crush of economies and the sectors that were 

12          really being hit hard -- and some of them had 

13          been having struggles before the pandemic -- 

14          that this was going to require some retooling 

15          of workers.  

16                 Also we know that the jobs won't 

17          necessarily go away, but they may become more 

18          virtual, which means you have to be more 

19          digitally savvy.

20                 So we have been having very deep 

21          discussions on the workforce development side 

22          of our house about how best to serve those 

23          customers.  And again, the Virtual Career 

24          Center is going to be key to this.  The 


                                                                   70

 1          Virtual Career Center is going to have a lot 

 2          of very robust AI, and it's going to be able 

 3          to connect an individual worker, look at 

 4          their work experience, and through AI begin 

 5          to sift through other kinds of work and say, 

 6          you have these skills, and yet there are 

 7          these kinds of jobs that are open to you -- 

 8          and some of them it's a direct fit, and some 

 9          of it's if you do these kinds of trainings, 

10          you would really be eligible for that.

11                 We're also going to work very closely 

12          with all of the REDCs and the businesses to 

13          understand what their needs are in the 

14          region.  Because I don't want to do just a 

15          general New York State approach, I want to 

16          do, you know, town by town or region by 

17          region.  There's a lot of focus on 

18          up-skilling people.  We have the -- we have 

19          Coursera, available for free to underemployed 

20          and unemployed New Yorkers.  This is a free 

21          learning platform.  

22                 And sometimes it only takes a course 

23          or two to really bring you up to a new level.  

24          Maybe you want to go into a new area of work 


                                                                   71

 1          but you have deficiencies in math.  You can 

 2          take a math course on Coursera for free and 

 3          then you'll be able to qualify.

 4                 Or maybe you want to go back to 

 5          college to a two- or four-year school, and 

 6          you need a couple of remedial classes.  

 7          Coursera can do that for free, and then we 

 8          could connect you with the training programs 

 9          that you need.

10                 We're also working very closely with 

11          SUNY and CUNY.  SUNY has a new SUNY Online 

12          program that's also going to be free for 

13          certain workers.  

14                 And we're all going to work together 

15          to make sure that as we come out of the 

16          pandemic, we're not going to have permanently 

17          unemployed people unless that's what they 

18          choose to be.  We want everybody to be able 

19          to find a good job in the new economy, and 

20          that means people are going to have to have 

21          some retraining, and we want to be a part of 

22          that.

23                 SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you.  Our 

24          time is up.  But going forward, I'd love to 


                                                                   72

 1          discuss with you offline how we get this 

 2          information out to the public and to our 

 3          constituents.

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes, I'd love 

 5          to have that conversation.

 6                 SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Terrific.  Thank 

 7          you very much.

 8                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you, 

10          Senator.  Assemblywoman.

11                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, thank you.  

12          We go to Assemblyman DeStefano for three 

13          minutes.  

14                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Good 

15          afternoon, Commissioner.

16                 The last time I spoke with you was 

17          over the summer when we were talking about 

18          our unemployment problems in the state and 

19          the inundation in our district offices.  One 

20          of the questions I had is I remember when we 

21          were hiring people to handle the overflow and 

22          things like that.  Do you have an estimate of 

23          the number of people that were hired from 

24          outside of the state and why these jobs 


                                                                   73

 1          weren't offered to people who were unemployed 

 2          in New York?  

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So I don't know 

 4          the exact numbers, because of course these 

 5          are third-party vendors.  

 6                 We always want people to hire within 

 7          the state, and we did have a couple of 

 8          vendors who are located in New York State, so 

 9          that was a much better opportunity.  But 

10          frankly, at the height of the pandemic we did 

11          not have the ability to say that you must 

12          hire within New York State, because it would 

13          have taken much longer and then we would have 

14          harmed many more people who needed the 

15          unemployment.  

16                 That said, as I said earlier, we are 

17          now at a place where we're going to be able 

18          to hire hourlies and permanent people in the 

19          DOL, New York residents who will be living 

20          and working here, and we will have far less, 

21          if any, reliance on the outside vendors.  We 

22          always saw the vendors as an emergency patch; 

23          it was never a permanent solution.

24                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Thank you.  


                                                                   74

 1          Does the department have an estimate of the 

 2          labor force participation in New York in 

 3          2020?  

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We do, and I 

 5          don't have the number in front of me.  It 

 6          might be on the website.  We have a lot of 

 7          labor force information.  But I can look at 

 8          it and get it to you.

 9                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Thank you.  

10                 Does the department have a current 

11          estimation of the long-term unemployment, 

12          those unemployed for longer than six months, 

13          in the state?  

14                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  We have a 

15          number; I don't have that in front of me.  I 

16          can get that for you too.

17                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Okay.  My last 

18          question is going to be, is it possible for 

19          the department to permanently waive the 

20          seven-day waiting period before the 

21          first-time unemployment insurance applicants 

22          receive their benefit?  

23                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So that's an 

24          interesting question.  We can look at it 


                                                                   75

 1          and -- you know, that's a -- it's in the 

 2          regulation, so that's a conversation.  

 3                 But let me tell you why that seven-day 

 4          waiting period is there.  It's one of the 

 5          reasons we have fraud.  So the seven-day 

 6          waiting period gives us time to be able to do 

 7          some checking to make sure that you're you.  

 8          And that seven-day period is very important.  

 9                 I'm not sure if it's in the federal 

10          regulation or if it's in the state 

11          regulation.  I'd have to look at it.  But it 

12          does serve a purpose.  And we felt it very 

13          strongly when we got rid of it.  It caused 

14          some unexpected problems within the system.  

15                 But we can have that conversation.  I 

16          have to figure out if it's federal or state 

17          regulation that requires it.  It might be 

18          federal.

19                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Okay.  My last 

20          question.  I don't know if it was Senator 

21          Savino -- do we have a number of how many 

22          people we know of that fraudulently received 

23          unemployment benefits from -- during the 

24          pandemic?  


                                                                   76

 1                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  The number of 

 2          total recipients?

 3                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Right.  The 

 4          ones who actually scammed the system.  Do you 

 5          have --

 6                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Oh.  No, I 

 7          don't have a total number of them.  We know 

 8          that the ones we prevented, the $9.5 billion 

 9          prevented, was 455,000 cases.  But I don't -- 

10          that's -- you know, it's -- you know, 

11          remember, that's $5.5 billion {sic} was 

12          prevented.  These are very sophisticated 

13          fraudsters.

14                 ASSEMBLYMAN DeSTEFANO:  Thank you, 

15          Commissioner.  My time is up.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  To the Senate.

17                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

18          much.  

19                 Senator Tom O'Mara, five minutes.

20                 SENATOR O'MARA:  Thank you.  

21                 And thank you for being with us today, 

22          Commissioner.  We appreciate your testimony 

23          and all your hard work throughout the year, 

24          which has been a very, very difficult one.  


                                                                   77

 1          We all understand it's certainly been trying 

 2          for all of us, so --

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes.

 4                 SENATOR O'MARA:  You've said, you 

 5          know, we've put out $65 billion so far in 

 6          unemployment benefits.  And just last week, 

 7          you know, we passed legislation to increase 

 8          the appropriating authority to $71 billion.  

 9          Where do we stand as far as paying this back?  

10          I know a big portion of that is federal money 

11          that -- through the CARES Act that we are not 

12          going to be paying back, is my understanding.  

13                 But if you can outline for us what 

14          that state portion is and what our plan and 

15          timeline is for how much that's going to cost 

16          us over how long.  And is that going to play 

17          into the experience rating of businesses on 

18          what they have to pay in in coming years?  

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So let me start 

20          with the experience rating first.  I issued 

21          an order a month ago, maybe, halting the 

22          pandemic-related experience rating for 

23          employers in the last year, understanding 

24          that the pandemic -- many people didn't 


                                                                   78

 1          choose to close, they had to close.

 2                 So last year, if you had 

 3          pandemic-related unemployment, that will not 

 4          count against you and your experience rating 

 5          will not go up, which is great.

 6                 You're also correct, three-quarters of 

 7          that $65 billion is federal money, and we do 

 8          not repay it.  Which is, frankly, a mitzvah.  

 9          We do have a loan of $9.5 billion.  Last year 

10          it was interest-free because of the first 

11          CARES Act.  We are hoping, we're very hopeful 

12          that the Biden administration can waive at 

13          least some if not all of the debt for all of 

14          the states -- 47 percent of the states have 

15          some debt to the federal government right 

16          now, and some are higher than ours.  So it is 

17          a huge problem.  

18                 So we're not quite sure what the next 

19          year's rate will be because we're still 

20          waiting to hear some of this information from 

21          the feds and sorting through it.  There's no 

22          doubt that the rate will go up, but it won't 

23          go up as high as we had feared.  And we are 

24          hoping that the federal government will help 


                                                                   79

 1          us and keep it as low as possible.  It will 

 2          get paid out over a long time.  It won't 

 3          be -- it's not going to be a hammer the first 

 4          couple of years.  It gets stretched -- it 

 5          gets socialized out over a pretty long period 

 6          of time.

 7                 SENATOR O'MARA:  Are there any 

 8          recommendations that you have, as 

 9          commissioner, for what actions we may be able 

10          to take as a legislature to lessen that 

11          impact over time?

12                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  You know, I'd 

13          have to think about it.  I don't know.  I 

14          mean, I was not here when UI reform was done 

15          after the last recession.  But that probably 

16          would be a good place to look to see what 

17          fixes were done then, because that really 

18          strengthened the system.  And it -- you know, 

19          it was a very smart piece of legislation.  

20          And it -- certainly if we had not had that 

21          reform, we'd probably owe double what we owe.  

22                 So I would say, just off the top of my 

23          head, I would look at that legislation and 

24          talk to people who went through the process 


                                                                   80

 1          and see what the conversation was then.

 2                 SENATOR O'MARA:  Okay.  Thank you very 

 3          much, Commissioner.

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Sure.  Thank 

 5          you.

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

 7                 Assemblywoman.  

 8                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We have our 

 9          last Assemblymember, Assemblyman {sic} 

10          Giglio, for three minutes.

11                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GIGLIO:  Good afternoon.  

12          And my video is not showing -- no, I've got 

13          it prompted.  So good afternoon, everyone.  

14                 So my question pertains to the Farm 

15          Laborers Wage Board.  In December they 

16          decided to lower the threshold for overtime 

17          to 40 hours per week through November, 

18          awaiting data from the -- awaiting data.  I'm 

19          wondering if that data has been compiled yet 

20          and if any consideration is given to extend 

21          keeping the threshold at 40 hours rather than 

22          the 60 hours through 2022, just because the 

23          farmers have been hurt so significantly this 

24          year due of COVID, with the wineries being 


                                                                   81

 1          closed, the catering halls being closed, the 

 2          farm-to-table restaurants being closed, and 

 3          not being able to -- you know, their crops 

 4          have been destroyed and they haven't been 

 5          able to prosper.  

 6                 So I'm wondering if the data has been 

 7          collected from the hearings in December and 

 8          whether or not there's any consideration to 

 9          extend the lowering of the threshold through 

10          2022, or at least past November.

11                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So we -- I 

12          convened the wage board at the order of the 

13          act -- I'm happy to do it -- and they met 

14          throughout the year.  They had five testimony 

15          periods, even during the pandemic.  They had 

16          one real one in-person, and the rest of them 

17          -- well, they were all real, but one was 

18          in-person, the rest of them were virtual, of 

19          course.  

20                 And we had a lot of testimony from a 

21          lot of the agricultural community, mostly the 

22          owners but some workers as well, and their 

23          advocates.  And then had a couple of sessions 

24          where they -- public sessions where they 


                                                                   82

 1          openly discussed, you know, the information 

 2          that they had received.

 3                 Their recommendation from the three 

 4          members of the board was to pause at 60 for 

 5          overtime for farmworkers for a year, at least 

 6          a year, and to reconvene the wage board no 

 7          earlier than November 1st of this year and no 

 8          later than December 15th, and they would 

 9          reconvene and continue their work.  During 

10          that time, they will be looking at various 

11          factors affecting both the workers and the 

12          employers.  

13                 One of the reasons they recommended 

14          this was because it was felt that the 

15          pandemic had really unsettled the workplace, 

16          the agricultural community, the marketplace, 

17          and they wanted to see more information on 

18          all of that.  

19                 I will say -- and I said it when it 

20          was signed -- the farm laborers fair -- I 

21          never get the name right.  The Farmworkers 

22          Act was excellent, and it extended lots of 

23          protections beyond just the overtime 

24          protection, and I thank you for it.  


                                                                   83

 1                 Last year was the first year that the 

 2          farm communities worked with 60 hours of 

 3          overtime.  We will see what happens this 

 4          year, and they will reconvene the end of this 

 5          year, hopefully, if that is what we decide 

 6          here at the Department of Labor -- that was 

 7          the recommendation.  I haven't issued my 

 8          order yet.  The order will be no later than 

 9          February 19th.  But that was the 

10          recommendation from the board.

11                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GIGLIO:  Okay.  Thank 

12          you.

13                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

14                 Our next questioner is Senator Brad 

15          Hoylman.

16                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  Hello.  Hi -- hi, 

17          Commissioner.  Good to see you.

18                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Hi, good to see 

19          you.

20                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  First of all, let me 

21          say I have Zoom envy.  You have the best 

22          resolution of anyone I've seen on Zoom.  I 

23          think it's because you're a former actor.  

24          Just putting that out there.


                                                                   84

 1                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes (laughing).

 2                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  I have a vexing 

 3          issue with a constituent and their 

 4          application for Pandemic Unemployment 

 5          Assistance that I want to just run by you.

 6                 She is an artist, a pretty successful 

 7          one, and -- but obviously has not been able 

 8          to sell her art during the pandemic.  She's 

 9          an adjunct professor at the Art Students 

10          League, like a lot of artists are.  That's, 

11          you know, a part-time job which she didn't 

12          lose.  But when she applied for CARES 

13          assistance, they went off of her W-2 form for 

14          her adjunct professorship rather than her 

15          1099 on her art sales.  

16                 Is there anything that can be done?  

17          Your staff has been helpful, but I just 

18          wanted to raise that. 

19                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yeah.  So -- 

20          and you know part of this answer, I can't 

21          discuss individual claims.

22                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  Yes.

23                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  And there 

24          are --


                                                                   85

 1                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  I think it's a broad 

 2          issue involving --

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  There's -- 

 4          she's not the only person in that situation.

 5                 In the new CARES Act there is MEUC, 

 6          the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation, 

 7          and it allows for people in this situation -- 

 8          it doesn't completely resolve her problem, 

 9          because there are rules on how UI and PUA 

10          interplay.  But if you have more than $5,000 

11          of self-employment earnings -- and they 

12          really must be self-employment earnings -- in 

13          a year, but you are on UI, then you get an 

14          extra $100 a week benefit to compensate for 

15          this particular problem.  

16                 It is a highly complex program, and we 

17          are still awaiting guidance from USDOL on how 

18          the -- the details of it.  But it is there, 

19          and it may not -- you know, it may take a bit 

20          to get it all worked out, but she'll get all 

21          the money -- if she qualifies, she'll get all 

22          the money that she's owed under that 

23          particular program.

24                 But it is -- you know, PUA never 


                                                                   86

 1          existed before the CARES Act.  And while the 

 2          CARES Act was done out of the best of 

 3          intentions and saved millions of people, it 

 4          had some unintended consequences because PUA 

 5          and UI are not the same, and there are 

 6          conflicting guidances.  So that's -- she got 

 7          caught in that.

 8                 SENATOR HOYLMAN:  Thank you.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

10                 Assembly?  

11                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We do not have 

12          anybody else.

13                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  All right.  

14                 Commissioner Reardon, I have just a 

15          couple, and then I think that Senator Jessica 

16          Ramos has a second round of questions.  So 

17          I'm definitely not taking the 10 minutes.

18                 When you answered the question before 

19          about the number of cases of I guess 

20          fictitious unemployment applications, 

21          fraudulent, you didn't actually mean there's 

22          456,000 people who actually individually 

23          filed fake cases, do you?  I mean, is it more 

24          bots and other kinds of software stealing 


                                                                   87

 1          that?  

 2                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Oh, you mean 

 3          what their techniques are?  That is a very 

 4          good question.  Some of them may have been 

 5          done by bots.  A lot of them were done by 

 6          individuals.  And it is -- these are highly 

 7          sophisticated fraudsters.  

 8                 And, you know, quickly, at the 

 9          beginning of this we were working on how to 

10          prevent fraud and we said, Oh, well, the 

11          fraudsters would never actually talk to us.  

12          Because they really don't want to talk to us:  

13          We're not going to do this thing.  They do 

14          want to talk to us.  They call us and they 

15          try to convince us that they're real people.

16                 So yes, 455,000 cases -- I'm going to 

17          look at somebody in the room with me.  Could 

18          that be more than -- is that individual 

19          claims or is that individual fraudsters?  

20          It's claims, I think.

21                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  So that's a 

22          mind-boggling number of people who --

23                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  And that's just 

24          in New York.  So imagine --


                                                                   88

 1                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  And I understand, 

 2          I just -- it's amazing that there's that 

 3          number of people who would even sort of know 

 4          how to figure out to try to commit DOL fraud.  

 5          It's inter -- well, it's sad --

 6                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Well, they're 

 7          international, too.  I mean, as they used to 

 8          say, why do bank robbers rob banks?  Because 

 9          that's where the money is.

10                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Fair enough.  

11                 And yet on the other side of the coin, 

12          when I told you this the other night that I 

13          was going to ask you, now we're getting 

14          constituents who are being told that they 

15          were overpaid by DOL -- not their fault.  I'm 

16          not even saying your fault.  But something 

17          was calculated wrong, and so they're getting 

18          hit to repay.  But they've spent the money.  

19          They still are living in a pandemic without 

20          work.

21                 So I'm a little confused, because I 

22          found an article that said the new federal 

23          rules are that you don't even have to collect 

24          back the overpayments of PUA anymore.  


                                                                   89

 1                 So can you clarify what New York is 

 2          trying to collect back?  Or is there a change 

 3          in policy happening?  

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So again -- and 

 5          because there are six different programs now 

 6          instead of one, it makes it highly complex.  

 7          But the federal rule is if federal dollars 

 8          are paid out inappropriately, whether it was 

 9          on purpose or not, they must be recouped.

10                 There is something in the new CARES 

11          Act for forgiveness of some PUA overpayments, 

12          but I don't think it's extensive, I think 

13          it's limited.  I'd have to -- I'll get back 

14          to you on that.  

15                 We always have an overpayment system 

16          that works, because the law says you must 

17          legally be entitled to the benefit.  So 

18          sometimes they misstated their earnings; 

19          intentionally or not, you're not legally 

20          entitled.

21                 You know, there are a lot of different 

22          reasons why this happens.  Often it's not 

23          that much money.  Sometimes it is, you know, 

24          a fair amount of money.  And, you know, we're 


                                                                   90

 1          willing to work with people to try to figure 

 2          out how to handle that.  

 3                 But this has gone on before the 

 4          pandemic.  The pandemic really -- like 

 5          everything else, it made it highly complex in 

 6          a very difficult time.

 7                 When we talked the other night, you 

 8          said you heard that some states were not 

 9          collecting it until after the pandemic.  I 

10          asked my UI folks, and that was a new one for 

11          them.  So I -- and I don't have the answer 

12          yet, but we're looking into it.  

13                 But I don't -- there is a federal law 

14          that says you have to recoup.  I don't know 

15          that there's a time frame on it.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay.  I 

17          appreciate your following up with us.

18                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Sure.

19                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I know some of my 

20          constituents were getting bills -- I have one 

21          constituent, $12,000 overpayment.  Pretty 

22          much everything they've gotten over the 

23          entire time frame.  So -- but nobody was 

24          saying they didn't collect it legitimately, 


                                                                   91

 1          they just -- they'd spent it.

 2                 All right, I'm going to pass it on to 

 3          Senator Ramos, our chair of Labor, for her 

 4          second round of five minutes.

 5                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Why, thank you so 

 6          much, Senator Krueger, the chair of Finance.

 7                 I do have a few follow-up questions, 

 8          and I'm glad the commissioner mentioned the 

 9          Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act.

10                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Yes, thank you.  

11          We agreed on this.

12                 SENATOR RAMOS:  I did.  I did have a 

13          few questions about the wage board, and these 

14          questions will largely be about wages.  

15                 Can you explain a little bit more 

16          about how the wage board decided to delay 

17          making a decision?  When will the wage board 

18          reconvene to decide on the issue?  And what 

19          are the different options that you've 

20          explored to deal with the overtime threshold 

21          issue?  

22                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So the wage 

23          board gives a -- the process -- and I get a 

24          little confused in this myself when I talk 


                                                                   92

 1          about it, because I tend to talk about their 

 2          recommendation.  They make a recommendation 

 3          to me, and I issue my order.  I have not 

 4          issued my order yet, 

 5                 But their recommendation was because 

 6          of COVID and because of the conditions in the 

 7          economy, that they wanted to pause until -- 

 8          no earlier than November 1st and no later 

 9          than December 15th of this year, this wage 

10          board would reconvene and continue their 

11          work.  And during that period they will be 

12          gathering information pertinent to this 

13          issue.  You know, the robustness of the farm 

14          economy, the impact on workers' mental and 

15          physical health -- all of the things that we 

16          consider, you know, going into this.  That 

17          was their recommendation.

18                 And I want to say -- and you and I 

19          have talked about this -- the Farm Laborers 

20          Act was really wonderful, and a long time 

21          coming.  And I thank you and the Governor for 

22          committing to this task.  It is a difficult 

23          place for, you know, the farm community and a 

24          difficult place for some of the workers.  


                                                                   93

 1          We've heard conflicting conversations.  But 

 2          we are going to continue to look at it and 

 3          study it -- if that's what my decision is.  

 4          That's what the board wants me to do.

 5                 It is -- you know, last year was the 

 6          first year they paid overtime over 60, which 

 7          was an interesting experience for both the 

 8          employers and the employees.  And so there's 

 9          a lot to be looked at in all of that.

10                 SENATOR RAMOS:  All right, thank you.  

11          I don't want to get stuck on this question 

12          because I have less time now.

13                 On the minimum wage you, Commissioner, 

14          along with the Department of Budget, will get 

15          to decide together whether to increase the 

16          upstate minimum wage going forward.

17                 Are we expecting a minimum wage 

18          increase upstate this year, maybe by 

19          December?

20                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Well, we -- the 

21          DOB issued their findings December 31st, I 

22          think was the date.  And so the minimum wage 

23          went up upstate this year in January.  The 

24          next time that they look at it, of course, is 


                                                                   94

 1          the end of this year, and they will do their 

 2          assessment like they did last year:  How 

 3          robust is the economy, all of that.  But it 

 4          did go up January 1st across the state.

 5                 SENATOR RAMOS:  All right.  And on 

 6          tipped workers, as of December of 2020, 

 7          miscellaneous industries like nail salon and 

 8          car wash workers will receive the minimum 

 9          wage in addition to any tips they earn.  What 

10          outreach has the DOL done to inform workers 

11          and employers of this change, and what has 

12          your strategy been to -- or what will your 

13          strategy be to enforce?  

14                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So we do a 

15          pretty robust outreach on this.  We've got a 

16          pretty well developed network, particularly 

17          in those industries.  We've had a pretty good 

18          working relationship, actually, with a lot of 

19          the nail salons already for various reasons.  

20          And they all received notice of the 

21          increase -- I think they actually get new 

22          signage to put up in their shops, because 

23          they'll have to have signs.  So it's there, 

24          the workers know it, it's in their languages, 


                                                                   95

 1          the employers know it, the hotline is 

 2          there --

 3                 SENATOR RAMOS:  A lot of workers don't 

 4          know it.  Let me tell you, as a Colombian 

 5          woman who gets her nails done religiously 

 6          every two weeks, no, most workers do not know 

 7          that they should be paid $15 an hour.

 8                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So do me a 

 9          favor.  When you're in the nail salon, see if 

10          they have the updated poster.

11                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Okay, I'll check.  

12          They haven't, yeah.

13                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  So we -- what 

14          we tend to do is we work -- there's a rather 

15          robust group of advocates who have worked 

16          with these industries, and we have worked 

17          very closely with them.  So I will check back 

18          in and see, because they should know.

19                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Yeah, no, absolutely.

20                 I didn't think we were going to 

21          have -- well, I'll just leave it there.  I 

22          mean, I can think of so many other questions 

23          to ask you, but I'm sure that we will 

24          reconvene soon.  


                                                                   96

 1                 It's good to see you, Commissioner.  

 2          Thank you for all --

 3                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Good to see 

 4          you.

 5                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Thank you for your 

 6          service to workers in New York.

 7                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  Thank you very 

 8          much.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

10                 And for any legislator who doesn't 

11          feel like they have the time to ask all their 

12          questions -- because we try to move very 

13          fast -- please, if you get us your questions, 

14          we can submit them to the commissioners and 

15          then we will share the written answers with 

16          everyone in both houses.  

17                 So thank you.  And thank you very 

18          much, Commissioner.  Oh, wait, I see the 

19          Assemblywoman with her hand up, yes.  

20                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, we have 

21          our chair, Labor Chair Assemblywoman Joyner 

22          has a follow-up question of the commissioner.

23                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Thank you.  

24                 Okay, it's a very quick question.  I 


                                                                   97

 1          wanted an update on the sick leave.  Are we 

 2          having any complaints, questions that the 

 3          department is aware of regarding the new law?  

 4                 COMMISSIONER REARDON:  The paid sick 

 5          leave requirements?  So, you know, people -- 

 6          workers started accruing last September, and 

 7          in January they were able to start using 

 8          their leave.  There have obviously been 

 9          questions from industry, how does this -- 

10          it's not unexpected -- how does this work.  

11          We've been doing a lot of outreach, contact 

12          with our employer groups.  

13                 But so far I think it's going pretty 

14          well.  I think sometimes people get confused 

15          between COVID sick leave and paid sick leave 

16          and FMLA, and so we're trying to make sure 

17          that all of that is clear.  

18                 But again, congratulations to all of 

19          you and the Governor for passing this, 

20          because this is something that I have 

21          advocated for for a long time, and it's great 

22          to know that we have it in the State of New 

23          York.

24                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOYNER:  Okay, thank 


                                                                   98

 1          you, Commissioner, for your time.

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Thank you also, 

 3          Commissioner.

 4                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

 5          much, Commissioner Reardon, for being here 

 6          with us this evening.  

 7                 And we're going to call up our next 

 8          commissioner, Lola Brabham, who's the 

 9          commissioner of the New York State Department 

10          of Civil Service.

11                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Good evening.

12                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Good evening.

13                 Oh, and we've also been joined by 

14          Senator Roxanne Persaud.

15                 How are you, Commissioner?  

16                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Very well.  

17          Very well.  

18                 Good afternoon, Chairs Krueger, 

19          Weinstein, and distinguished members of the 

20          Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means 

21          Committee.  My name is Lola Brabham, and it 

22          is my privilege to serve as the commissioner 

23          for the Department of Civil Service.  

24                 I appreciate the opportunity to appear 


                                                                   99

 1          before you today to comment on Governor 

 2          Cuomo's Executive Budget for fiscal year 

 3          2022, and to highlight some of the agency's 

 4          key accomplishments over the past year.

 5                 As the central personnel agency for 

 6          the executive branch of state government, the 

 7          Department of Civil Service delivers 

 8          workforce management and development services 

 9          to 70 agencies serving approximately 150,000 

10          employees.  In that capacity, the department 

11          is responsible for the administration of the 

12          civil service merit system, along with the 

13          New York State Health Insurance Program.

14                 Over the past year the department has 

15          made significant progress to improve the 

16          efficiency and cost effectiveness of our 

17          programs and services, while advancing the 

18          state's strategic workforce needs.  And in 

19          the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have 

20          worked hand in hand with agency partners to 

21          do our part, from ensuring the most critical 

22          workforce priorities are met, to ensuring 

23          access to high-quality healthcare and 

24          providing direct support to our first 


                                                                   100

 1          responders.

 2                 In terms of workforce needs, 

 3          Civil Service has acted quickly to establish 

 4          critical positions needed to address COVID-19 

 5          needs.  To date, approximately 1800 positions 

 6          have been established, including more than 

 7          1300 positions at the Office of Mental Health 

 8          and Department of Health, and on a daily 

 9          basis we remain in close contact with our 

10          stakeholders, responding to hundreds of 

11          inquiries and requests for guidance from the 

12          HR community pertaining to personnel 

13          recruitment, attendance and leave protocols, 

14          and other staffing matters.  

15                 During the early days of the pandemic, 

16          the physicians, nurses, and medical 

17          technicians who work at the department's 

18          Office of Employee Health Service were 

19          mobilized to provide immediate support for 

20          COVID-19 response efforts by medically 

21          clearing health professionals, first 

22          responders, and other essential workers who 

23          needed to wear a respirator in the 

24          performance of their job.  


                                                                   101

 1                 To date, staff have cleared more than 

 2          800 individuals in support of this effort, 

 3          including employees from the Department of 

 4          Health, State Police, National Guard, 

 5          Department of Environmental Conservation, 

 6          Office for People with Developmental 

 7          Disabilities, and others.  

 8                 With regard to civil service testing, 

 9          the Department is focused on building back 

10          better by modernizing its approach to test 

11          delivery through the use of technology and 

12          business improvements.  

13                 As you can imagine, the pandemic had a 

14          significant impact on the department's 

15          ability to conduct in-person civil service 

16          exams for state agencies and local 

17          governments.  To address this issue, the 

18          department utilized CARES Act funding to 

19          invest in new and robust technology to 

20          deliver virtually proctored civil service 

21          examinations to job seekers, reducing 

22          potential exposure to COVID-19.  This testing 

23          capability will allow the State of New York 

24          to meet targeted hiring needs.  


                                                                   102

 1                 In addition, this investment will 

 2          streamline the exam application and review 

 3          process and ensure that New York is 

 4          strategically planning for the workforce of 

 5          tomorrow.  

 6                 Further, to ensure equity and access 

 7          for all job seekers, the Department has 

 8          invested in new Chromebooks to ensure that 

 9          examinations can be administered to 

10          candidates who may not have the technology 

11          required to take a civil service exam 

12          remotely.  

13                 Through these actions, we will 

14          continue to modernize the civil service merit 

15          system and build on Governor Cuomo's legacy 

16          of expanding opportunity for all New Yorkers.  

17                 Support for diversity, equity and 

18          inclusion in the state's workforce is of 

19          critical importance, and under Governor 

20          Cuomo's leadership the department has worked 

21          collaboratively across state agencies to 

22          cultivate a more inclusive work environment 

23          for all employees.  

24                 The department's Office of Diversity 


                                                                   103

 1          and Inclusion Management continues to work 

 2          with state agencies to identify and implement 

 3          best practices related to outreach and 

 4          recruitment, retention, reasonable 

 5          accommodations, and other areas.  These 

 6          efforts are laying the groundwork for 

 7          agencies to develop comprehensive strategic 

 8          plans to meeting workforce and community 

 9          needs throughout the State of New York.  

10                 In addition, the department recently 

11          debuted a highly interactive virtual implicit 

12          bias training intended for all agencies, 

13          further promoting the state’s commitment to 

14          diversity and inclusion principles during a 

15          time in our nation's history that the need 

16          for such has become increasingly evident.  

17                 The Department of Civil Service also 

18          provides technical assistance and training to 

19          95 municipal agencies that are responsible 

20          for the civil service administration of 

21          approximately 360,000 local government 

22          employees.  As part of these efforts, the 

23          department reviewed more than 2,500 requests 

24          from local government representatives over 


                                                                   104

 1          the past year to support the appropriateness 

 2          of various merit system activities and the 

 3          practicability of examination for certain 

 4          titles.  

 5                 On the health benefits front, the 

 6          department continues to manage one of the 

 7          most comprehensive public employer health 

 8          insurance programs in the nation.  Early in 

 9          2020, the department launched a new 

10          telehealth program for over 1 million 

11          individuals enrolled in the state's 

12          Empire Plan to enable virtual medical visits.  

13                 The telehealth program, which is 

14          offered at no additional cost, allows members 

15          to participate in virtual visits with a 

16          board-certified doctor or licensed therapist 

17          by simply using a personal computer, tablet, 

18          or smartphone.

19                 The initiatives the I have highlighted 

20          today underscore the department’s ongoing 

21          commitment to supporting high-priority 

22          workforce needs, providing efficiently 

23          managed and cost-effective programs and 

24          promoting equal opportunity and access for 


                                                                   105

 1          all New Yorkers.  

 2                 Thank you for the opportunity to 

 3          appear before you today, and I'm happy to 

 4          address any questions you may have at this 

 5          time. 

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

 7          much, Commissioner.  

 8                 Our first questioner will be 

 9          Andrew Gounardes, our chair of the 

10          Civil Service Committee.

11                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  For some 

12          reason I'm not able to turn my camera on; it 

13          says -- oh, here we go.  All right.  You 

14          would think 10 months into this we'd be able 

15          to figure this all out, but clearly not.  

16                 Hi, Commissioner, how are you?  Good 

17          to see you.

18                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Hi.  I'm doing 

19          great, how are you?

20                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Doing great, 

21          great.  Thanks for your comments. 

22                 I have a bunch of questions.  First, I 

23          want to pick up where you talked about the 

24          virtual examinations.  And I know that the 


                                                                   106

 1          Governor had allocated some money in the 

 2          budget this year to kind of help expedite 

 3          that transition.  Have we already been giving 

 4          virtual examinations over the past year, or 

 5          is that something that's going to be starting 

 6          moving forward?  

 7                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  No, that's 

 8          going to be starting moving forward.  Right 

 9          now in-person civil service examinations 

10          remain, you know, on hold.  However, you 

11          know, we have exercised maximum flexibility 

12          to assist our state agency partners in being 

13          able to make appointments, particularly with, 

14          you know, critically needed positions.  And 

15          we continue to hold T&E exams, the technical 

16          training and experience exams, and also 

17          continuous recruitment exams.

18                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you 

19          for that.  

20                 I had heard from a number of workers, 

21          you know, who have been scheduled to take 

22          exams early on last year that were postponed, 

23          obviously due to the pandemic.  And I wonder 

24          if there was a -- and were asked to pay a fee 


                                                                   107

 1          to process their applications.  Will those 

 2          fees kind of be carried over to their future 

 3          rescheduled date, if it's virtual or not?  

 4          Will they be refunded?  What's the 

 5          department's plans for the fees that have 

 6          been collected so far from people --

 7                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Yes.  So we're 

 8          working with agency partners on the exam 

 9          schedule.  And we're certainly endeavoring to 

10          hold all of the exams that were postponed.  

11                 And to answer your question, yes, 

12          anyone who paid a fee for an exam, that will 

13          be rolled over and credited so they'll be 

14          able to apply that when the exam is 

15          rescheduled.  In, you know, extremely limited 

16          circumstances -- for example, if someone has 

17          retired and will no longer be part of the 

18          state workforce -- and again, we'll look at 

19          those situations on a case-by-case basis.  

20          But in those limited circumstances, there may 

21          be a refund due to an individual in that 

22          situation.

23                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you.

24                 The Governor's budget proposes closing 


                                                                   108

 1          a number of state-operated facilities, some 

 2          of which are not located near any other state 

 3          facilities within the same agency.  What 

 4          happens  to the employees in a case like 

 5          that?  Are they laid off, are they 

 6          transferred, are they given the option to 

 7          have to drive three hours to the nearest job 

 8          placement within the same agency?  Can you 

 9          shed some light on that for us?

10                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Sure.  So, you 

11          know, anytime we are made aware of any kind 

12          of facility rightsizing, we immediately begin 

13          working with the impacted agency and 

14          employees to -- through our ARTL process to 

15          see if we can match those individuals with 

16          another position that they qualify for.  It 

17          could be within the same agency or it could 

18          be at another state agency.  

19                 And, you know, hopefully -- and we're 

20          working right now, you know, with several 

21          different agencies to make those placements.  

22          In the event that an employee either declines 

23          a placement or a placement is not found, that 

24          person would be placed on a mandatory rehire 


                                                                   109

 1          list and would need to be hired, you know, 

 2          into that title before someone from the 

 3          outside could be hired.

 4                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Thank you.

 5                 I want to pivot now to talk about, you 

 6          know, how we've seen the workforce kind of 

 7          adapt and deal with the pandemic.  And we've 

 8          heard and I've certainly heard lots of 

 9          instances and reports, and I think that this 

10          has now been -- you know, there might be some 

11          action being taken on this -- about some 

12          public agencies, some state agencies not 

13          complying with the COVID paid sick leave that 

14          we passed last year, you know, before we -- 

15          you know, last March.  

16                 And I just wanted to get your thoughts 

17          on that and see, you know, what steps the 

18          department is taking to make sure that these 

19          affected agencies are in fact complying with 

20          the mandatory paid sick leave for employees 

21          who are being told to go into quarantine.

22                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Well, I guess, 

23          you know, that's really a two-part answer.  

24                 You know, our role is to send out 


                                                                   110

 1          guidance to the workforce community so that 

 2          they understand what the rules are.

 3                 With the situation that you're talking 

 4          about, you know, the Governor's Office of 

 5          Employee Relations really takes the lead on 

 6          negotiating, explaining, you know, the 

 7          various paid sick leave, quarantine leave and 

 8          all of that.  And it's my understanding that 

 9          there is actually litigation around this 

10          right now.  So I, you know, would like to not 

11          comment any further but would instead refer 

12          you to Michael Volforte, from GOER, who is 

13          coming up after, after my presentation.  

14                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Okay, thank you.  

15          I would just hope, you know, certainly 

16          speaking for myself, but I'm sure for my 

17          colleagues as well, you know, the intent of 

18          the law was to make sure that employees are 

19          not penalized for being forced into 

20          quarantine, especially those that got sick, 

21          while having no option to Zoom their way 

22          through their workday, especially {inaudible} 

23          employees.  And so I know that many of us 

24          take a very keen interest in seeing that 


                                                                   111

 1          resolved in a way that reflects the intent of 

 2          the Legislature when we passed that law last 

 3          year.

 4                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  {Inaudible.}

 5                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Pivoting off of 

 6          that, can you give us a sense, in your 

 7          assessment, either for -- both for your 

 8          department and also for other departments 

 9          that you're helping advise, how agencies are 

10          complying with the pandemic preparedness law 

11          that we passed last year?  That would have 

12          been Chapter 168 of last year's laws for each 

13          agency to prepare pandemic preparedness 

14          plans.

15                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Yes.  I mean, I 

16          know that every agency is working on that.  

17          You know, I can only comment on my agency.  

18                 We started working on this actually a 

19          couple of years ago, so we were well 

20          positioned to make the necessary tweaks to 

21          our continuity of operations plan to ensure 

22          that we're meeting the letter of the law.  

23                 Those plans, you know, have been 

24          submitted to our deputy secretary, and I 


                                                                   112

 1          think that we're in good shape.

 2                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:   And your plans, 

 3          they were done in consultation as well with 

 4          employee representatives, as required -- 

 5                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Yes.  Yes, 

 6          that's correct.

 7                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:   Okay.  Great.  

 8          Thank you.

 9                 And finally, the last area I want to 

10          kind of cover right now is you talked about 

11          the 1800 new positions that were created to 

12          kind of deal with the flexibility and the 

13          needs that the workforce was facing 

14          throughout the last 10, 11 months, can you 

15          just give us a sense what -- you know, 

16          broadly speaking, what other lessons learned 

17          or insights gained in terms of how we should 

18          be thinking about our public workforce in 

19          light of the challenges that this pandemic 

20          has brought upon us.  Especially considering 

21          that many of our public workers were kind of 

22          asked to do a lot of out-of-title work just 

23          out of necessity; otherwise, things wouldn't 

24          get done.  


                                                                   113

 1                 I'd love to hear your thoughts on 

 2          that.

 3                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Well, I mean, I 

 4          think there's a couple of things.  You know, 

 5          we at Civil Service for years now have been 

 6          focused on title consolidation.  And one of 

 7          the reasons for that is to make the titles 

 8          more broad and flexible to deal with some of 

 9          the issues that crop up around out-of-title 

10          work.

11                 I think, you know, one of the other 

12          things that this has forced us to look at is 

13          the value of telecommuting and whether or not 

14          it can be done effectively and whether or not 

15          we can maintain productivity in that kind of 

16          environment.

17                 So I think that we've learned a lot 

18          about that.  I think we've learned a lot 

19          about where we are with our technology 

20          infrastructure, for example, you know.  So I 

21          think there were many lessons learned as we 

22          had to move as quickly as possible to kind 

23          of, you know, reorganize the way we go about 

24          doing our work.


                                                                   114

 1                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you 

 2          very much.  That's all the questions I have 

 3          now.

 4                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  You're welcome.

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Senator 

 6          Krueger, we do not have any Assemblymembers 

 7          who have questions.  I see you have an 

 8          additional Senator with a question.  I wonder 

 9          if you could go ahead.

10                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, thank you.  

11          I see Senator Ramos raising her hand.

12                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Yes, Senator Ramos has 

13          a question.  

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  You know what, 

15          Senator Ramos, I apologize.  Shelley Mayer 

16          had her hand raised, and I feel I must call 

17          on her first --

18                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Only because it's 

19          Shelley.

20                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

21                 We need to hear you, Shelley.

22                 SENATOR MAYER:  Can you hear me now?  

23                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Yes, we can.

24                 SENATOR MAYER:  Okay.  Thank you, 


                                                                   115

 1          Madam Chair.  Thank you, Senator Ramos.

 2                 Commissioner, I have a question.  Was 

 3          there a delay in the scoring of exams because 

 4          of COVID, exams that had been taken prior to 

 5          COVID but then they either were not scored or 

 6          the results were not sent out to the 

 7          respective test-takers or to the 

 8          municipalities?  This was a complaint I 

 9          heard.

10                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  I'm not aware 

11          of -- are you talking about a specific 

12          municipality or a specific -- I'm not aware.

13                 SENATOR MAYER:  Yeah, I am, but I just 

14          wondered whether this is an institutional 

15          problem of -- because people were out, that 

16          test did not get scored on a timely basis 

17          once COVID really kicked in in March.

18                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Yeah, well, we 

19          didn't really have people out.  We did have 

20          people who were working remotely, but that 

21          didn't stop the scoring of exams or any of 

22          that work that needed to happen.  

23                 So if there was a delay in scoring, I 

24          am not sure that that's directly related to 


                                                                   116

 1          COVID.  But if you'd like to talk offline 

 2          about a delay or something that should have 

 3          happened that didn't, I'm happy to do that.

 4                 SENATOR MAYER:  Okay, thank you.  I'll 

 5          follow up directly with you.

 6                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Okay.  

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, thank you.  

 8          And now -- now we'll go to Senator Ramos.  

 9          Thank you.

10                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Thank you, 

11          Senator Krueger.

12                 I wanted to ask, Commissioner -- I 

13          noticed that the Executive Budget is 

14          proposing $800,000 in order to be able to 

15          proctor civil service exams online.  I would 

16          have actually thought that that was a 

17          cost-saving measure.  I understand, you know, 

18          you might have to put more things online.  

19          How are we justifying that cost, that 

20          investment right now?  I understand that it's 

21          necessary, you don't need to make that 

22          argument to me, I'm just wondering about the 

23          price tag and, you know, why it's so high.

24                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  So the $800,000 


                                                                   117

 1          that you're referencing is not to put things 

 2          online, it's to set up the virtual proctoring 

 3          environment so that when an individual is at 

 4          home and they're taking a test, an exam 

 5          online -- it's the security for the exam.  

 6          It's not just to simply put things online.  

 7          There's --

 8                 SENATOR RAMOS:  I'm sorry, it's the 

 9          security for the exam?  What does that mean?

10                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Well, you 

11          have -- so someone has to proctor the exam to 

12          make sure that there's not cheating.  So just 

13          as the -- you know, similar to if you were 

14          taking an exam sitting in a room, there would 

15          be two to three individuals --

16                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Ah.

17                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  -- you know, 

18          making sure that people aren't sharing 

19          answers or cheating or doing any of those 

20          things.  So --

21                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Okay, so this 800 is 

22          largely, then for payroll.

23                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  It's for 

24          proctoring of the exam.


                                                                   118

 1                 SENATOR RAMOS:  I see.  Okay.  And do 

 2          you plan on keeping any of these exams, if 

 3          not all of these exams, virtual?  Will there 

 4          continue to be a virtual option, do you 

 5          think, after -- you know, post-pandemic, 

 6          whenever that might be?  

 7                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Well, yeah, 

 8          that -- right.  So, you know, if there's any 

 9          silver lining to this, it's that it has, you 

10          know, moved the needle in the direction of 

11          virtually proctored exams.  And so as we move 

12          forward, we anticipate that the majority of 

13          the exams that we administer will be done 

14          online.  

15                 There -- you know, for the time being 

16          there may still be some exams that remain 

17          paper and pencil due to the nature of the 

18          exam.  You know, exams that have a lot of 

19          technical material, you know, for now -- you 

20          know, for example, the engineering exam would 

21          continue to be paper and pencil for the time 

22          being.  

23                 But most of the exams will be moving 

24          in the direction of being virtually proctored 


                                                                   119

 1          and online.

 2                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Thank you for the 

 3          information, Commissioner.

 4                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  You're welcome.

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

 6                 Assembly, anyone else on your side?

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  No, we can go 

 8          on to the next witness.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  All right.  Thank 

10          you very much, Lola.  Appreciate your time 

11          today.

12                 COMMISSIONER BRABHAM:  Thank you.  

13          Great to see you.

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  All right.  Our 

15          next commissioner is Michael Volforte, 

16          director, New York State Governor's Office of 

17          Employee Relations.

18                 Good afternoon.

19                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  Good evening.  

20          Thank you for having me here.

21                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Certainly.

22                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  Chairs 

23          Weinstein and Krueger and honorable members 

24          of the Assembly and Senate, my name is 


                                                                   120

 1          Michael Volforte, and I serve as the director 

 2          of the Governor's Office of Employee 

 3          Relations.  Thank you for the opportunity to 

 4          address you on Governor Cuomo's Executive 

 5          Budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 as it 

 6          relates to the state workforce.

 7                 The past year has certainly brought us 

 8          unprecedented challenges that none of us 

 9          expected.  I'd be remiss if I didn't open my 

10          remarks by acknowledging the dedication of so 

11          many New York State employees who have been 

12          on the front lines of our response to 

13          COVID-19.  We have thousands of front-line 

14          workers who have been on the job every day 

15          throughout the pandemic, thousands more who 

16          have stepped up to keep critical programs 

17          going and services running despite the 

18          difficult circumstances.  

19                 We saw thousands more state employees 

20          willingly help out their fellow New Yorkers 

21          by staffing hotlines for answering 

22          COVID-19-related questions, scheduling 

23          testing, and processing Unemployment 

24          Insurance claims of an unprecedented nature.  


                                                                   121

 1                 I applaud all their dedication, and my 

 2          agency remains steadfastly committed to 

 3          working with their employee organizations to 

 4          address all of their concerns.

 5                 Under the Governor's leadership, GOER 

 6          has mounted a robust response to the 

 7          pandemic.  In mid-March, through negotiated 

 8          agreements, we expanded the availability of 

 9          telecommuting for employees who did not need 

10          to be on-site to deliver services.  These 

11          were fair agreements that balanced the needs 

12          of the state to continue delivering 

13          mission-critical services while balancing the 

14          needs of our employees.

15                 As a result, we've been able to reduce 

16          the number of employees on-site at any given 

17          work location to help ensure adequate social 

18          distancing.

19                 These expanded telecommuting 

20          arrangements are in place through April 2nd, 

21          and employees not telecommuting have returned 

22          to office settings pursuant to safety plans 

23          put in place by every agency in accordance 

24          with Department of Health guidelines.


                                                                   122

 1                 GOER also negotiated with all of our 

 2          employees to relax deadlines that would have 

 3          had employees otherwise forfeit unused 

 4          vacation and other leave credits, even though 

 5          many of those employees were unable to use 

 6          those credits due to the critical nature of 

 7          the work they were performing in response to 

 8          COVID-19.

 9                 We also created a new, more flexible 

10          leave category to receive paid leave and set 

11          up a new response infrastructure to ensure we 

12          can give the proper guidance to agency 

13          managers who are navigating the difficult 

14          employment issues raised by the pandemic.  

15          While this new system started in response to 

16          the pandemic, we have recently transitioned 

17          it to a model where we use this system to 

18          handle all employment-related inquiries from 

19          agencies and give them advice that they need.

20                 A great number of employees who take 

21          advantage of our flexible spending 

22          accounts -- pretax programs designed to allow 

23          employees to pay for certain eligible 

24          expenses on a pretax basis -- were impacted 


                                                                   123

 1          by the pandemic.  GOER took steps to 

 2          ameliorate the impact of COVID-19 on this 

 3          program by extending processing deadlines for 

 4          use of 2019 funds, alerting individuals about 

 5          the ability to change 2020 deductions within 

 6          federal guidelines, and expanding the 2021 

 7          program by permitting employees more time and 

 8          access to their 2020 funds during the plan 

 9          year 2021 by permitting a carryover and 

10          longer run-out period for two of the 

11          programs.  More than 31,000 employees saved 

12          money through these programs.  

13                 Our Employee Assistance Program 

14          rendered valuable assistance to almost 23,000 

15          employees working and coping with the 

16          pandemic.  We also distributed over 7,000 job 

17          and career related tuition reimbursement 

18          benefits in the last year.  Guidance was 

19          issued on ergonomics associated with working 

20          from home to help keep the workforce healthy.

21                 While much of our focus has been on 

22          aiding the response to COVID-19, we have 

23          continued to administer benefits and programs 

24          like these that are designed to improve both 


                                                                   124

 1          the quality of the work and the personal 

 2          experiences of our employees.

 3                 Early in the pandemic we directed 

 4          agencies to ensure that they utilized the 

 5          labor-management process to keep their union 

 6          counterparts informed and to address their 

 7          concerns.  Needless to say, every 

 8          conversation isn't easy, and opinions 

 9          sometimes differ, but we have remained 

10          committed to dialog with our union 

11          counterparts throughout this crisis and are 

12          proud of the job so many union officials and 

13          agency human resources teams have done 

14          throughout state government to keep the lines 

15          of communication open and get employees 

16          needed information and assistance.  

17                 Last year I reported to you that as 

18          part of the Governor's broad agenda to 

19          protect the LGBTQ community we would be 

20          making cultural competency training on gender 

21          identity and expression available to all 

22          state employees.  

23                 I'm pleased to inform you that we 

24          recently launched a gender identity toolkit 


                                                                   125

 1          that is mandated for all our employees.  This 

 2          is a collection of resources designed to help 

 3          ensure that our employees have the 

 4          information that they need to make sure that 

 5          all New Yorkers are treated with respect.  

 6          We're very proud of this toolkit and look 

 7          forward to developing additional training and 

 8          resources that reflect the Governor's strong 

 9          ongoing commitment to a New York that is fair 

10          and welcoming to all.

11                 In addition, last year the Governor 

12          declared that Juneteenth would be a holiday 

13          for the state workforce, and signed 

14          legislation passed by the Legislature 

15          designating Juneteenth as a public holiday in 

16          New York.

17                 As you know, GOER investigates 

18          complaints of protected class employment 

19          discrimination and harassment in executive 

20          branch agencies covered by Executive Order 

21          No. 187.  With our team, we are actively 

22          investigating complaints of intimidation and 

23          harassment in order to ensure that all 

24          allegations are investigated, individuals are 


                                                                   126

 1          advised of the result of that investigation, 

 2          and appropriate action is taken in a timely 

 3          manner against anyone found to have violated 

 4          our policy.

 5                 When the pandemic hit, we were in 

 6          negotiations with several unions, and those 

 7          have been slowed by the pandemic.  In the 

 8          coming fiscal year we anticipate returning to 

 9          the bargaining table with those unions and 

10          commencing negotiation with others whose 

11          contracts will expire in the coming year.  As 

12          you all know, the pandemic has created 

13          serious fiscal concerns, and the state is 

14          committed to working with the unions to 

15          achieve fiscally responsible agreements.

16                 In closing, despite the challenges of 

17          the past year, executive branch employees 

18          have continued to deliver critical services 

19          to New Yorkers.  GOER stands ready to partner 

20          with its union counterparts as we move 

21          forward and we all look forward to better 

22          days.

23                 Thanks.

24                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you, 


                                                                   127

 1          Commissioner.

 2                 We've been joined by Senator John Liu.  

 3                 Any Assemblymembers you'd like to 

 4          introduce, Helene?  Any new ones?  

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  No.  But we do 

 6          have a question if you don't.

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Oh, no, we do, I 

 8          just thought I would give you an opportunity 

 9          to introduce others who showed up.

10                 We have our chair, Andrew Gounardes, 

11          chair of Civil Service.

12                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:   Great, thank you.  

13          Thank you very much, Director.  

14                 I only have a couple of quick 

15          questions for you, and I want to kind of pick 

16          up from where you just left off talking about 

17          bargaining with our labor unions in 

18          collective bargaining agreements.  And I 

19          wanted to ask you specifically about the one 

20          set of workers, state workers who have been 

21          working without a contract for the last seven 

22          years, and that is our PBA in New York State, 

23          the people that represent the Park Police and 

24          the SUNY Police and the Environmental 


                                                                   128

 1          Conservation Police.  

 2                 They have a pay bill which has been 

 3          waiting, and that was a court-ordered 

 4          arbitration award, which has been delayed by 

 5          the Executive.  It is accruing interest by 

 6          the day.  And so the longer we delay in 

 7          paying this bill that was due seven years 

 8          ago, it's going to only become more costly to 

 9          the state.  

10                 And in light of the fiscal challenges 

11          that you just alluded to, I'd like to ask, 

12          you know, when can we expect to see this pay 

13          bill finally executed and the bill paid for 

14          these workers?

15                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:   Thank you, 

16          Senator.

17                 Certainly it's a matter of concern to 

18          us.  A clarification, though.  The interest 

19          arbitration award was issued and was agreed 

20          to by the state, but the passage and signing 

21          of the pay bill is a necessary precursor to 

22          paying that award.  So as soon as the -- as 

23          soon as it's passed and signed, the pay bill 

24          will be implemented, and that's what 


                                                                   129

 1          implements that interest arbitration award.

 2                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:   Well, I don't 

 3          know if we have the bill yet from the 

 4          Executive.  I know we're waiting for that 

 5          bill to be passed down to us, as we were 

 6          waiting last year, which he released at the 

 7          last minute.  And, you know, we clearly can't 

 8          take that action until the Executive gives us 

 9          that pay bill to execute on it.  

10                 So I think that we are waiting for 

11          those next steps in order to move forward and 

12          make sure that these state employees are able 

13          to get to the pay that they were told they 

14          deserve seven years ago.  

15                 So it's clearly a concern for me, and 

16          hopefully we can expedite this as soon as 

17          possible.

18                 The next question I wanted to kind of 

19          focus in on, in your capacity as director, 

20          what advice and expertise have you been able 

21          to give to other agencies at the state level 

22          in terms of them crafting and preparing their 

23          own workplace safety plans, as required by 

24          the pandemic preparedness chapter that we -- 


                                                                   130

 1          I discussed with the previous two panelists?

 2                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:   Certainly.  

 3          There's been a lot of discussion on this, and 

 4          I know that the agency plans are in process 

 5          for them to be shared with the unions.  

 6                 Our focus is really on those things 

 7          that are, you know, either subjects of 

 8          collective bargaining, either for the future, 

 9          perhaps, or have already been the subject of 

10          collective bargaining.

11                 So questions on changing of schedules, 

12          altering of work weeks and that nature -- and 

13          certainly things, you know, revolving around 

14          things like telecommuting, which I mentioned 

15          that we negotiated telecommuting agreements.  

16          So it's on how the workforce gets scheduled, 

17          where they work, when they work, those type 

18          of questions has been really the focus as 

19          agencies have developed these plans and we've 

20          had interactions with them.

21                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  In your 

22          assessment, do you think that -- or do you 

23          have any concern that we're not going to be 

24          able to meet the April 1st deadline?  


                                                                   131

 1                 Because, you know, we are -- all 

 2          levels of government are trying to bring 

 3          employees back to work in any way possible, 

 4          and I want to just get your assessment as to 

 5          whether or not we'll be ready to bring them 

 6          back safely within the next couple of months.  

 7                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:   Certainly.  

 8                 I have no concerns that the state is 

 9          going to meet the deadlines imposed by the 

10          law.  And agencies have been operating under 

11          safety plans since May which have already 

12          been shared with the unions, which are 

13          COVID-19-specific.  

14                 The COOPs that the Legislature passed 

15          and the Governor signed into law aren't 

16          COVID-19-specific, although they will be -- 

17          you know, our COVID experience will certainly 

18          inform them.  

19                 So agencies that are bringing 

20          employees back are already operating under 

21          safety plans.  But I've got absolutely no 

22          concerns that agencies will meet the April 

23          1st deadline for the COOP plans currently 

24          required by Chapter 168.


                                                                   132

 1                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you 

 2          very much.  Those are all my questions.

 3                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

 4                 Assembly.

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, we go to 

 6          Assemblyman Ra, our ranker, for five minutes.

 7                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Thank you, 

 8          Chairwoman.

 9                 I just wanted to ask a little bit 

10          more -- you mentioned in your remarks, you 

11          know, the two main kind of cost-saving 

12          initiatives, the hiring freeze and the 

13          deferral of the salary increases.

14                 With regard to the hiring freeze, is 

15          there, you know, set, clear criteria for the 

16          agencies to utilize when knowing whether 

17          they, you know, should be looking at bringing 

18          somebody in and looking for a waiver?  

19                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  I think 

20          historically the hiring freezes have had 

21          exceptions to them, but I believe all the 

22          agencies have been advised of that.  

23                 And they normally fall into two 

24          categories for applying for exceptions.  


                                                                   133

 1          Health and safety is one major area.  And 

 2          then mission-critical, where perhaps those 

 3          employees aren't necessarily related to 

 4          health and safety, but if you have one person 

 5          performing a duty and you need to replace 

 6          that individual, that certainly is 

 7          mission-critical, and that is part of the 

 8          process.  

 9                 And hires need to be justified, and 

10          understandably so, given the current economic 

11          circumstance we're in.  But I believe that 

12          through the Division of Budget and others, 

13          that that guidance has been given to the 

14          agencies.

15                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Okay.  And in the 

16          case of a transfer, a waiver is required for 

17          that as well, if it was like between agencies 

18          or --

19                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  That -- that 

20          I'm unaware of.  GOER isn't involved in the 

21          transfer process; it's really through the 

22          Department of Civil Service.  But -- so I 

23          can't really comment on whether a waiver is 

24          required for a transfer.


                                                                   134

 1                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Okay.  Thank you.  

 2                 And then just with regard to the 

 3          deferral of the salary increases, do you know 

 4          what the -- you know, I guess the current 

 5          proposal would be that it would go to 2023 -- 

 6          what the retroactive payment liability would 

 7          be?

 8                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  I don't have 

 9          the retroactive payment liability in front of 

10          me.  But I would say I believe that in the 

11          budget that that 2023 number is the 

12          worst-case-scenario number in terms of 

13          federal aid.  

14                 And then I believe as both the 

15          Governor and the Budget Director stated, that 

16          if we get our fair share, which is the $15 

17          billion minimum, which we expect to be our 

18          fair share, that we would repay that -- those 

19          deferred raises before that.

20                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Okay.  Thank you very 

21          much for being here.

22                 Chair, I -- that's it.

23                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

24                 Are there any other legislators who 


                                                                   135

 1          would like to ask questions?  

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  I have -- 

 3          Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio has a question, for 

 4          three minutes.

 5                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GIGLIO:  Thank you.

 6                 Yeah, Ed Ra asked the question that I 

 7          was interested in, which is the deferral of 

 8          the contractual obligations for the 

 9          bargaining agreements, collective bargaining 

10          agreements.

11                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Okay.  So then 

12          I think we are finished with this panel, 

13          Senator Krueger.

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

15          much, Assemblywoman.  

16                 And thank you very much, Michael, for 

17          being here with us tonight.

18                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  Thank you 

19          all.  Very much appreciate it.

20                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  -- late 

21          afternoon.  We're almost hitting tonight.  

22          Thank you.  

23                 GOER DIRECTOR VOLFORTE:  Be safe, all.

24                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  So our next 


                                                                   136

 1          panel -- so now we move to the panels where 

 2          people have asked to testify.  And even 

 3          though it seems ridiculously short, they get 

 4          three minutes to testify and then we 

 5          basically get three minutes to ask them 

 6          questions, wherein their answers have to be 

 7          within the three minutes also, with the 

 8          exception of chairs, who get five minutes 

 9          during these rounds.  

10                 I know it's been a long day, several 

11          hearings.  But I think I got that all out 

12          correctly.

13                 So our first panel, Civil Service 

14          Employees Association, Local 1000, Francine 

15          Turner, director of legislative and political 

16          action.  

17                 Then New York State Public Employees 

18          Federation -- you know, my chart says 

19          Wayne Spence, but I think I got a note 

20          earlier today that somebody was going to be 

21          filling in for Wayne.  Yes, indeed.  And she 

22          will introduce herself when we get to her.  

23          Thank you.

24                 And for District 37, Henry Garrido, 


                                                                   137

 1          executive director.  

 2                 Good afternoon, slash, evening, Fran.  

 3          You go first.

 4                 MS. TURNER:  Good evening.  How are 

 5          you, Senator?  It's good to see you.

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Nice to see you.

 7                 MS. TURNER:  I want to touch on just 

 8          two things in our testimony that are the most 

 9          important for us.  And let me lay a little 

10          background.  I'm going to talk about the 

11          Office of Mental Health.  

12                 So over the past six years we have 

13          seen a 30 percent reduction in children's 

14          beds across the state for in-resident 

15          treatment of those that are in need of 

16          psychiatric care.  We've seen a 20 percent 

17          reduction across the state for adult beds.  

18                 Last year I heard the commissioner say 

19          that we've absolutely hit rock bottom, can't 

20          go any further.  And this year we look at 

21          this budget proposal and they are proposing 

22          another 200 beds across the board will come 

23          down.  Eighty-eight of those beds are 

24          children's beds, 78 are adult beds, and the 


                                                                   138

 1          rest are in the forensic units.  

 2                 They say that the door has been open 

 3          during the pandemic, but if we look at 

 4          pre-pandemic numbers, most of these 

 5          facilities where these beds are coming down 

 6          were at capacity or very near capacity.

 7                 So there's no question that during the 

 8          COVID people stopped seeking treatment, for 

 9          whatever reason.  I wouldn't say -- OMH 

10          claims the door was open.  I would say 

11          perhaps it was ajar, but it wasn't open all 

12          the way.  And we've seen mental health 

13          problems across the state with our children 

14          who have been out of school for almost a 

15          year, for many of them, with our family 

16          members that can't see their loved ones if 

17          they're in the hospital and they're passing 

18          away, can't see their parents in the nursing 

19          homes.  I mean, there have been more and more 

20          incidences where these beds are going to 

21          become critical.

22                 This year there's no reinvestment, 

23          either, so this is a definite 

24          across-the-board cut in services and the 


                                                                   139

 1          state pulling back on their obligation.

 2                 It's also they want to privatize -- 

 3          straight-out privatization of 100 of our 

 4          community residence beds.  And we have 

 5          nowhere to go with this.  There's not going 

 6          to be enough services for people that need 

 7          it.  

 8                 This clock is running fast, and I 

 9          haven't gone to OCFS, which is going to close 

10          facilities.  But I want to answer Senator 

11          Gounardes's question that he asked of Civil 

12          Service.  

13                 If a member is offered a job two hours 

14          away, we don't believe that's a real offer.  

15          If they refuse that job, they would go on a 

16          preferred list.  But we don't believe it's a 

17          real offer.  If they refuse that job, it's 

18          actually a layoff.

19                 And you don't just disturb the people 

20          that are leaving the facilities, you have a 

21          layoff unit that is bigger.  So you are 

22          affecting a lot more people.  Because I can 

23          come from a facility, go to a new facility, 

24          and I can bump and retreat.  Right?  So more 


                                                                   140

 1          people are going to get affected that just 

 2          those in the closed facilities.  

 3                 And we have four closures in OCFS, 

 4          leaving no services in Suffolk County.  We 

 5          also have Rockland Children's Psych closing 

 6          in Rockland, which means there would be no 

 7          children's beds from the Bronx to Utica, 

 8          New York, leaving a vast territory of not 

 9          having service for the children in the psych 

10          centers.  

11                 And I guess I have 11 seconds to go.  

12          I'm done.  How's that?

13                 (Pause.)

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I didn't realize 

15          I was on mute.  Thank you very much, Fran.

16                 Next, from PEF.

17                 MS. DiANTONIO:  Good evening, 

18          Chairpersons Krueger, Weinstein, Gounardes, 

19          Abbate, and other distinguished committee 

20          members.  Thank you so much for having us 

21          here today and giving us the opportunity to 

22          speak with you.  

23                 First I want to echo everything my 

24          sister from CSEA has just said about the 


                                                                   141

 1          closures and the cuts at OMH, particularly 

 2          around children's beds and services.  This 

 3          trend to downsize and diminish the Office of 

 4          Mental Health, the closures within OCFS, the 

 5          cuts in beds at OPWDD is happening from Long 

 6          Island to Buffalo.  

 7                 We have significant concerns that this 

 8          budget is being balanced on the backs of our 

 9          most vulnerable citizens.  It goes against 

10          every stated value that we've talked about 

11          throughout this pandemic about making sure 

12          that critical services are available and 

13          being provided to the state's most needy.  

14                 This is a contradiction.  

15          Underfunding, short staffing, critical short 

16          staffing of nurses has been the reason or the 

17          excuse to cut some of these services.  It is 

18          incredibly important for us to look at this 

19          budget and really reinvest and recalibrate 

20          how we provide public services.  

21                 You know, if mental illness is growing 

22          in this state, why are we cutting services?  

23          If you want meaningful criminal justice 

24          reform, why are we closing juvenile justice 


                                                                   142

 1          centers that provide unique and specialized 

 2          services?  

 3                 I'm a social worker by trade.  I 

 4          started my career at OCFS.  I worked with 

 5          juveniles who committed sex offenses.  These 

 6          programs that are slated to close provide 

 7          services like sex offender treatment, they 

 8          provide critical supports for people in the 

 9          LGBTQ youth community.  We're talking about 

10          trying to fix the system by taking away all 

11          the tools in the toolbox that we would use to 

12          fix it.  

13                 You know, across the state 

14          consolidating community services offices at 

15          OCFS.  They're looking to close all the 

16          New York City offices and make one in 

17          Brooklyn.  They're looking to close the 

18          Binghamton and the Watertown community 

19          services offices.  Where are these families 

20          and these youth supposed to go to get 

21          services?  Are they supposed to drive from 

22          one end of the state to the other?  Because 

23          that's not the reality.

24                 We continue, despite us banging this 


                                                                   143

 1          drum for years and years, to spend a billion 

 2          dollars on consultants.  We continue to have 

 3          over 8,000 FTEs that are -- you know, could 

 4          be better served by being reinvested into the 

 5          public workforce.

 6                 This is not a budget that takes care 

 7          of not only the heroes that we've had working 

 8          for us, but the people that we say need the 

 9          services the most.

10                 One of the things in the budget -- an 

11          oldie but a baddie -- you know, is trying to 

12          cut retiree healthcare benefits.  Every year 

13          it comes up, and every year we say, why are 

14          you doing this on the backs of people with 

15          fixed incomes when we're trying to recruit 

16          new state employees and we've cut benefits 

17          and pension plans?  

18                 All of these things lead to, you know, 

19          a diminishment in services and care for our 

20          New Yorkers.  And, you know, we've stepped up 

21          to the plate and we really need, you know, 

22          your help in making sure this budget is 

23          reflective of our real values.

24                 Thank you.


                                                                   144

 1                 (Pause.)

 2                 THE MODERATOR:  Senator Krueger, 

 3          you're on mute.  

 4                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Henry, it's your 

 5          turn.  I apologize, I was on mute.  

 6                 MR. GARRIDO:  Thank you and good 

 7          evening, Chair Krueger and Chair Weinstein 

 8          and the members of the state Assembly and the 

 9          Senate -- too many friends to begin to name 

10          them all, my three minutes will be up just by 

11          naming you all and thanking you for your 

12          leadership.

13                 My name is Henry Garrido.  I'm the 

14          executive director of District Council 37, 

15          the largest municipal union in New York City, 

16          representing 150,000 municipal employees and 

17          nonprofit workers.

18                 You know, COVID-19 has left us 

19          unprecedented challenges, and nearly 200 DC 

20          37 members have lost their lives by providing 

21          essential services.  And yet we haven't 

22          skipped a beat and will continue to deliver 

23          services to New Yorkers.

24                 So therefore, I mean, I only ask that 


                                                                   145

 1          this budget prioritizes those very essential 

 2          services that have sacrificed so much, 

 3          including their own lives, for New Yorkers.

 4                 And I want to focus my testimony on 

 5          three areas.  One, I want to push back on the 

 6          unprecedented cuts in the Executive Budget.  

 7          Two, I want to make a case for state revenue, 

 8          which includes taxing the wealthy.  And 

 9          lastly, I want to make a particular emphasis 

10          on an early retirement incentive to address 

11          New York City's shortfall.

12                 First, let me start with Medicaid and 

13          human services.  I think the Executive Budget 

14          proposes a 1 percent across-the-board cut for 

15          Medicaid that has the recommendation of the 

16          Medicaid Redesign Team of $2.5 billion.  And 

17          it has no sound -- no basis in public policy.  

18                 That would result in $116 million in 

19          cuts to the Health + Hospitals Corporation 

20          and $113 million for FY '21 and '22 

21          respectively.  Which, you know, in the middle 

22          of this pandemic, makes no economic or sound 

23          sense in terms of delivering services.

24                 I want to speak for health and human 


                                                                   146

 1          services which, in spite of the recent 

 2          increases, the funding continues to be flat.  

 3          And we are looking for an increase in health 

 4          and human services at a time that we need it 

 5          the most.  I think it's very dangerous to 

 6          gamble with this -- the lack of delivery of 

 7          services.  

 8                 The salaries of workers have remained 

 9          flat, and many of them have not been the 

10          recipients of the services that we've seen 

11          across the board of all the city workers.  

12                 I want to make a case shortly about 

13          taxing the rich and rebuilding an economy 

14          that requires us to pitch in.  I know it's 

15          difficult, but it's something that we need to 

16          do.  And there are a number of proposals on 

17          the table.  And, you know, I will say to you:  

18          Pick one, pick two, pick three -- but pick 

19          one.  I mean, like get to the point where we 

20          talk about revenue and not balancing the cuts 

21          of the budget on the workers.

22                 Lastly, and equally important, the 

23          early retirement system which we have 

24          proposed.  And I want to thank Chairmen 


                                                                   147

 1          Gounardes and certainly Abbate for their 

 2          leadership in the effort.  We need an early 

 3          retirement system that recognizes the hard 

 4          work of dedicated workers and lets them 

 5          retire with some dignity and economic 

 6          security, and it allows us to also do -- 

 7          balance the budgetary constraints of the 

 8          city.

 9                 Thank you for the opportunity to 

10          testify.  And I'll close with this.  A budget 

11          will always be a statement of values.  If you 

12          value essential workers, you will make sure 

13          that those workers are funded and provided 

14          for.

15                 Thank you.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

17          much.  All right, thank you all three.  I 

18          know I saw the hand of Senator Shelley Mayer 

19          first, I believe.  

20                 SENATOR MAYER:  Thank you, 

21          Madam Chair.  I think someone needs to be 

22          muted.

23                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I think so too.  

24          Anybody who is not on mute?


                                                                   148

 1                 SENATOR MAYER:  First, I want to -- 

 2          Fran -- thank you all for your testimony, 

 3          very much, and thank you for your leadership 

 4          in this really tough time and for your 

 5          members who stepped up, as you said, Henry, 

 6          and many of whom paid the incredible price of 

 7          life for this.

 8                 Do you have a projected number of 

 9          staff reductions that you think -- to your 

10          membership, given the Governor's proposals in 

11          the agencies you mentioned?

12                 MS. TURNER:  You're talking to me?

13                 SENATOR MAYER:  Yes, I am, Fran.

14                 MS. TURNER:  You know what, probably 

15          close to 200.  But let's talk about it.  

16          Because the ARTL system will work, right.  

17          This is the agency transfer system.  

18                 But -- so let's say there's 200 people 

19          from the affected facilities.  They will be 

20          offered a job, let's say, Goshen -- somebody 

21          from Goshen is offered a job at Brookwood.  

22          Okay?  That person going from Goshen is in 

23          the same layoff unit.  Right?

24                 SENATOR MAYER:  Yes.


                                                                   149

 1                 MS. TURNER:  But perhaps they go, and 

 2          they lay off or they're going to bump 

 3          somebody in Brookwood, because they have more 

 4          time.  

 5                 So it's hard to say.  Probably around 

 6          200 jobs total, but it's hard to say.  Some 

 7          of these facilities do have openings, so some 

 8          will go smooth.  But it's hard to say how 

 9          many more families will be affected.  Right?

10                 SENATOR MAYER:  Yes.  And one of --

11                 MS. TURNER:  Because it's not just the 

12          person moving, it's -- the whole layoff unit 

13          is the same.

14                 SENATOR MAYER:  I understand.  

15                 And Randi, do you have a PEF number 

16          for what you anticipate the impact of the 

17          Governor's budget on your membership?

18                 MS. DiANTONIO:  Well, I mean, we know 

19          that we know that we would lose around 

20          800 FTEs total.  But it's not by unit, it's 

21          total.  

22                 I mean, we have seen over the last 

23          many, many years a significant reduction in 

24          the state workforce.  So, you know, any 


                                                                   150

 1          reduction right now when we're at sort of 

 2          bare bones, people doing jobs that they're 

 3          not entitled to do -- I mean, they talked 

 4          about it earlier, they had spread people out 

 5          all over the place because of the staffing 

 6          problems we have.  And I think, you know, 

 7          this budget is 800 total, but if you look at 

 8          it cumulatively over many years, we are at a 

 9          critical shortage point.

10                 SENATOR MAYER:  Right, I understand.  

11                 And, Henry, I wonder for you, on the 

12          Executive's proposed budget, given what you 

13          mentioned, do you have an idea of how many 

14          employees might lose their jobs?

15                 MR. GARRIDO:   We don't.  But what 

16          we've seen, for instance, with the reductions 

17          of the previous 10 percent, we saw a 

18          reduction of about 2,000 head count in CUNY, 

19          in the City University of New York.  And 

20          obviously the $113 million I mentioned for 

21          the hospitals would be devastating at a time 

22          when we're delivering services.  

23                 So we reached an earlier agreement 

24          with the city for city agencies.  That 


                                                                   151

 1          doesn't apply for state agencies.  So I don't 

 2          have a total number, Senator.  But we're very 

 3          concerned about the head count reduction.

 4                 SENATOR MAYER:  Okay.  Well, we are 

 5          too, very.  This is not a time to lose jobs.  

 6          But thank you.

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

 8                 Assembly?  

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  We go to our 

10          ranker on Ways and Means, Assemblyman Ra.

11                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Thank you.

12                 To start, I just want to thank all 

13          three of you and all of your members.  You're 

14          100 percent right, these are the essential 

15          workers who have kept our state moving and 

16          provided essential services.  And certainly 

17          our condolences to all of your members on 

18          colleagues that were unfortunately lost to 

19          this virus.

20                 I just had a question, actually, in 

21          terms of the state agency workers.  My 

22          understanding was, you know, back earlier in 

23          the year as we were reopening and things like 

24          that, that there were workers that were 


                                                                   152

 1          transferred to agencies like the State Liquor 

 2          Authority to do enforcement.  

 3                 I'm just wondering if there were any 

 4          -- if you have any information as to, you 

 5          know, how many people were doing that type of 

 6          work and working in different agencies, and 

 7          if that is continuing or if that's been 

 8          reduced or --

 9                 MS. TURNER:   We did see a lot of 

10          workers go to DOL at the very beginning 

11          because they were helping with the 

12          unemployment.

13                 But for the CSEA workers -- remember, 

14          most of our workers on the state side, more 

15          than half of them are direct care workers in 

16          the 24/7 facilities.  So we're so 

17          short-staffed there that we couldn't go 

18          anywhere if we wanted to.

19                 And I would only add that, you know, 

20          this hiring freeze has resulted in 

21          6,000 vacancies across the state.  That's a 

22          lot in a year we haven't been able to 

23          replace.  So we haven't had the movement -- I 

24          don't know if -- Randi, if the PEF workers 


                                                                   153

 1          have had movement.

 2                 MS. DiANTONIO:   Yeah, I think a lot 

 3          of our members at various agencies -- the 

 4          Liquor Authority, Homeland Security, 

 5          Department of Health, were reassigned to do 

 6          different tasks.  They were doing COVID 

 7          screenings at the airports.  They were doing 

 8          unemployment.  They were setting up testing 

 9          sites.  

10                 You know, so over the course of the 

11          pandemic I think the tasks have shifted.  But 

12          we absolutely -- Tax & Finance had -- you 

13          know, were very involved in answering 

14          call-center questions.  You know, I mean, our 

15          members were willing to step up and do 

16          whatever they needed to do to help.  But I 

17          think it really magnified the -- nobody could 

18          predict the pandemic, but it really magnified 

19          that there were critical shortages to address 

20          real needs when New Yorkers needed them most.

21                 And I think many people have gone back 

22          to the roles that they had previously, but we 

23          still have people doing alternate duties and 

24          working as they've been asked to.  Much of it 


                                                                   154

 1          has been voluntary.  Some were, you know, not 

 2          able to have voluntary assignments.

 3                 ASSEMBLYMAN RA:  Great.  Thank you.

 4                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  So 

 5          that was Assembly, so back to Senate.  

 6                 Our chair -- hi.  Back to our chair of 

 7          Civil Service, Andrew Gounardes, 

 8          five minutes.

 9                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Great.  Thank you.  

10                 Hello, everyone.  You just -- all 

11          three of you really touched on a lot of the 

12          issues that I was going to ask about, so 

13          thank you very much for sharing your stories 

14          and your perspectives on behalf of your 

15          members.

16                 I want to just ask you all kind of the 

17          same question.  You know, we heard from some 

18          state officials about what steps are being 

19          taken to ensure that state workplaces are 

20          being made safe as we're trying to bring 

21          workers back home.  So I'd love to hear from 

22          you, especially Randi and Fran, about what 

23          was the consultation you have seen in 

24          workplaces to help bring these agencies up to 


                                                                   155

 1          speed to bring your workers back?  

 2                 And then for you, Henry, you know, the 

 3          mayor announced a very ambitious plan last 

 4          week to bring back a majority of our 

 5          workforce in a few months.  I really want to 

 6          hear from you as to whether you think we're 

 7          ready for that.  And that's obviously on a 

 8          much larger scale and size than I think some 

 9          of the other agencies and entities we're 

10          taking about.

11                 MS. TURNER:  So I guess I'll go first.  

12                 I will say this, Senator.  For 

13          probably 85 percent of the CSEA state 

14          workforce, they reported to work during this 

15          pandemic because the nature of their job is a 

16          direct care job.  Right?  So they went to 

17          work every day.  You know, let's face it, 

18          when it first started we all had the PPE 

19          problems.  It's scary.  We also lost 82 CSEA 

20          members in all the different agencies.  It 

21          was scary.  Things have gotten a lot better.  

22                 You know, Mike Volforte did talk about 

23          we did have regular labor-management 

24          meetings.  And the sooner we started them, 


                                                                   156

 1          the better off we were as far as workplace 

 2          safety guidelines.  And the agencies have 

 3          worked with us, they want to keep us safe.  

 4                 You know, it's been hard in our OPWDD 

 5          facilities because the client doesn't 

 6          understand wearing a mask, they don't 

 7          understand social distancing.  There's a lot 

 8          of intensive treatment there.  It's been 

 9          tough.

10                 But I would say that the agencies 

11          worked with us, we're doing the best we can.  

12          For those in DOL that worked remotely, a lot 

13          of them back to work and they feel 

14          comfortable.  We haven't had many complaints.  

15                 DMV, a few complaints, because they're 

16          in -- they're in touch with the general 

17          public every day, all day long.  So it is a 

18          little bit harder for them, and especially 

19          for our DMV workers who administer the road 

20          test, because they're getting in cars with 

21          people.  You know, that's difficult.

22                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Thank you.  

23                 Randi?  

24                 MS. DiANTONIO:  Yeah, so I would like 


                                                                   157

 1          to say that our experience with a lot of the 

 2          agencies has been the same as far as, you 

 3          know, getting our input, collaboration.  Some 

 4          agencies have been way better than others.  

 5          The agencies where we have, you know, our 

 6          medical, healthcare professionals, people 

 7          that are in critical roles where they have 

 8          gone into the workplace every single day.  

 9          You know, our prisons in particular.  

10                 We are still -- you know, some 

11          days are better than others.  We still have 

12          facilities where getting the right PPE has 

13          been problematic.  And we have others that 

14          have been absolutely on top of stuff.  So 

15          it's definitely been hit and miss.

16                 Where I think we have really seen a 

17          lack of what we consider logic is the 

18          locations -- a lot of our administrative 

19          agencies that did go to remote work and were 

20          extremely productive have started bringing 

21          people back into the worksites without a 

22          whole lot of reason to do so.  Especially in 

23          the New York City area, where public 

24          transportation, where rising numbers, all of 


                                                                   158

 1          these things were happening at the same time 

 2          as them telling people that had successfully 

 3          transitioned to remote work, they're being 

 4          told to come back in.  And they really didn't 

 5          have a good rationale for it.

 6                 We're still definitely looking forward 

 7          to seeing some of the pandemic plans.  We 

 8          haven't necessarily been given the 

 9          opportunity to provide input, although we've 

10          given input, whether it's been taken into 

11          account or not.

12                 I do think that it's -- it's one of 

13          those things where we are pushing constantly 

14          to reduce density in certain settings.  Our 

15          buildings are old, we have, you know, 

16          facilities that don't have great ventilation.  

17          And the more we can do that, the better.  But 

18          it has not been an easy road, and I think 

19          there's definitely more we hope to 

20          accomplish, and we hope to have those 

21          conversations at the agency level.  

22                 I do want to answer a question you had 

23          asked earlier, if that's okay, on quarantine 

24          leaves.


                                                                   159

 1                 SENATOR GOUNARDES:  Let me hear Henry, 

 2          and I'll come back for a second round after 

 3          that.  Okay, Randi?  Thank you.  

 4                 MS. DiANTONIO:  Great.

 5                 MR. GARRIDO:  Let me just say that of 

 6          150,000 members we represent, 100,000 were 

 7          already deemed essential, so they're working 

 8          every single day in the city agencies.  

 9                 However, if you look at what I 

10          mentioned from the onset of my testimony, you 

11          look at the nearly 200 DC 37 members who 

12          passed away while -- from COVID-19, you'd be 

13          surprised to hear that the majority of those 

14          workers did not come from hospitals or 

15          healthcare units who are directly dealing 

16          with people who are sick.  They're 

17          actually -- the number of people passing away 

18          in those hospital settings was lower than in 

19          some other agencies.  

20                 Where you saw the biggest number was 

21          in homeless services, in -- you saw it in 

22          social services.  People were applying for 

23          food stamps online, but they had to be 

24          recertified by an agency, and they kept 


                                                                   160

 1          everyone coming in in clusters, right?  And 

 2          clients, as Fran said, were not using masks 

 3          and were not exercising social distance.  It 

 4          took a while for people to get organized.

 5                 But I will say that we're not ready 

 6          yet.  We're hoping to install partitions in 

 7          some instances, and obviously exercise -- I 

 8          think that what we've done better is to 

 9          provide PPEs where we didn't have any, you 

10          know, and filters and things of that nature 

11          where we are required to, and then there's 

12          more of a general recognition to wear masks 

13          and everything else.  

14                 I would say that -- just to work off 

15          something that Randi said, is that it's very, 

16          very clear to me that we're rushing for 

17          public policy to bring everybody back when 

18          it's not necessary.  When productivity is 

19          still up, through the roof, where people are 

20          doing remote location -- look, at some point 

21          we're all going to have to come back, there's 

22          no question about it, right?  But if we're 

23          vaccinating workers at the tune of 3,000 a 

24          day -- right now many of our workers want to 


                                                                   161

 1          be vaccinated; there's no vaccine available 

 2          for them -- even though they're classified as 

 3          1b or 1a, first responders -- because the 

 4          city ran out of it.  I don't understand what 

 5          the rush is --

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  I'm 

 7          sorry, Henry, I let you go on because I 

 8          didn't think you'd had a fair chance.  But 

 9          now I have to jump to the Assembly.

10                 Helene?

11                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  So we need to 

12          go to Jo Anne Simon, for three minutes.

13                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  Unmute.  And the 

14          video.  Okay.  Had a little lag on the unmute 

15          and the video.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I know, 

17          everything's slowing down tonight for some 

18          reason.

19                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  Okay.  So thank 

20          you all for your testimony.  It's been very 

21          helpful.  And I think a lot of us share your 

22          concerns.  

23                 I guess I have a first question for 

24          you, Francine, about the closure of these 


                                                                   162

 1          facilities, for example, particularly for 

 2          youth.  And it strikes me that these closures 

 3          are not going to just affect the workers and 

 4          the young people that are needing to be 

 5          served, but that post-COVID we are seeing 

 6          increasing numbers of young people in 

 7          particular, but the population, with anxiety 

 8          and depression, and increasing the need for 

 9          these facilities to provide that care as well 

10          as obviously, you know, outpatient care and 

11          community-based services.

12                 Do you have any estimates of what you 

13          believe the need will be post-COVID?  Are 

14          your folks studying that at all?  Can you 

15          help us figure that out?

16                 MS. TURNER:   We looked at the 

17          figures -- and I want to talk about OMH.  We 

18          looked at the figures for OMH pre-COVID, and 

19          most of the facilities were at capacity or 

20          near capacity.  So COVID comes, right.  Even 

21          last November of 2020, Rockland Psych Center 

22          was at capacity.  So how they've now 

23          justified moving those beds to the Bronx, I 

24          don't know.  I don't think there is any 


                                                                   163

 1          justification to leave the Bronx to Utica 

 2          empty of no children's beds.  

 3                 But if you look at the numbers 

 4          pre-COVID, even up to April of 2020 they were 

 5          at or near capacity.  There's no question 

 6          there was a drop-off, right?  We didn't want 

 7          people in congregate settings, so there was 

 8          no question we weren't going to leave that 

 9          door wide open to bring people in.  So that's 

10          what we're comparing it to.

11                 And we're also comparing it to last 

12          year the commissioner of OMH said, I can't go 

13          any further, I cannot take down any more 

14          beds.  And now all of a sudden -- yup, I'm 

15          sure some of them are empty because of COVID.  

16          But what's going to happen as we get through 

17          this?  Because we're not through it yet.

18                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  So that's true.  

19          I guess my concern is, you know, how much 

20          more are we going to need is a real concern.

21                 And thank you, Mr. Garrido, I agree 

22          with you on the need to raise revenue.  And I 

23          think many of us agree with that.

24                 I guess my -- the question I have for 


                                                                   164

 1          your workers, how will -- sort of post-COVID, 

 2          it seems to me there will be a lot of changes 

 3          in the workplace.  Obviously there's 

 4          telehealth, there's all these teleservices, 

 5          there are -- your people are coming in, 

 6          they're essential workers, but the nature of 

 7          their jobs may be changing and we may have 

 8          different ways of performing those kinds of 

 9          jobs.  

10                 I'm wondering whether you have any 

11          sense of how your workforce will change or 

12          need to change the work that they're doing in 

13          the workplace as we go forward.

14                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  If you could 

15          quickly answer, before moving to the Senate.

16                 MR. GARRIDO:  It's a critical 

17          question.  We need to rethink the workplace 

18          differently.  And mostly telecommuting needs 

19          to be addressed.  Legislation needs to look 

20          at the new setup.  I have so many workers who 

21          didn't have to go in but went in because they 

22          had no access to broadband and the children 

23          were using it for school.  

24                 So thank you for raising that up, 


                                                                   165

 1          Assemblywoman.

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Thank you, 

 3          Henry.  

 4                 Now I'm going to go to the Senate.

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

 6                 Senator Diane Savino.

 7                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Thank you, Senator 

 8          Krueger.  Good evening, everyone.  

 9                 So I'm going to save some of the 

10          questions about the closures, et cetera, for 

11          next week when we get to either Local 

12          Government or we get to the Human Service 

13          committee hearing.

14                 I want to speak to all three of you 

15          about the issue of the early retirement, 

16          because it has come up as a matter of 

17          discussion in the Senate and I know in the 

18          Assembly as well, and there seems to be some 

19          concern.  I know how dire it is for the City 

20          of New York and for DC 37 and the Municipal 

21          Labor Committee, because they are facing or 

22          could be facing massive layoffs if we don't 

23          do an early retirement.  But some members 

24          have said that they won't vote for an early 


                                                                   166

 1          retirement bill if it doesn't include a 

 2          statewide bill for all workers.  

 3                 And I know that many of you, 

 4          particularly CSEA on the state side and PEF 

 5          on the state side, you guys are in the 

 6          opposite position.  You have a shortage of 

 7          members.  So could you speak to a bit about 

 8          why it might not be a good idea to extend it 

 9          statewide?  Just to clarify for some of my 

10          colleagues who don't understand why, even if 

11          we did it statewide, you might not want to 

12          opt into it, or you wouldn't want the state 

13          to opt into it?

14                 MS. TURNER:  Well, unfortunately we 

15          don't get to pick the positions.  Right?  And 

16          if in fact the Governor is going to target 

17          positions -- because I have never in my many 

18          years seen an early retirement incentive that 

19          hasn't been targeted.  You're not going to be 

20          able to target half of the CSEA members 

21          because they're in positions where they're so 

22          short-staffed.  Right?  But these CSEA 

23          members will see management take it, and they 

24          won't be able to take it.  That's number one.


                                                                   167

 1                 Number two, the positions won't be 

 2          refilled, so what does that leave the CSEA 

 3          workforce?  The state will privatize our 

 4          jobs.  We'll lose our footprint.  Right?  

 5          They're not going to hire back.  

 6                 The whole idea of an early retirement 

 7          is usually a tool to avoid layoffs.  Correct?  

 8          So it -- but then again, you're not going to 

 9          offer it across the board with no targeting 

10          and with us being able to fill positions.  So 

11          what are we offering?  What are you offering 

12          for the state side?

13                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Thank you --

14                 MS. TURNER:  We're down so many 

15          positions.  What are we doing?  

16                 You know, I will say this, Diane.  In 

17          local governments we had a lot of these go on 

18          during the pandemic.  They did a cash buyout, 

19          they reduced their workforce, it worked, it 

20          was clean, they can hire back whatever they 

21          want to hire back.  It was a lot cheaper, and 

22          it worked all the way across the state in our 

23          large counties.

24                 SENATOR SAVINO:  So what I would just 


                                                                   168

 1          hope that some members would understand is 

 2          not stand in the way of the City of New York 

 3          and the municipal unions that are seeking 

 4          that as a remedy to avoid the layoffs there, 

 5          because it doesn't extend beyond the City of 

 6          New York.  because it may not necessarily 

 7          work beyond the City of New York today.  

 8                 Would you say that that's fair?

 9                 MS. TURNER:  Are you talking to me?

10                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Yes.  Any one of you.  

11          Any one of the three of you.

12                 MR. GARRIDO:  What I can say from my 

13          perspective, Senator, we gave up $164 million 

14          to get a no-layoff agreement through June.  

15          Once that agreement is done, we're back at 

16          the whole concept of layoffs again.  

17                 Why look at a layoff when you can do 

18          an early retirement incentive?  Thank you.

19                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Thank you, Henry.  

20          Thank you.

21                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Assembly, do you 

22          have a -- oh, you do.

23                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, we have 

24          Assemblywoman Judy Griffin for three minutes.


                                                                   169

 1                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GRIFFIN:  Okay.  Okay, 

 2          thank you.  And thank you to the panelists 

 3          for being here.

 4                 I'm very sorry for the loss of any of 

 5          your employees.  That is very, very sad to 

 6          lose employees to COVID.  And I agree with 

 7          you on the cuts to mental health and human 

 8          services, to the facilities.  It's a real big 

 9          issue, and these cuts are really untenable.  

10                 I too was asking about the early 

11          retirement.  And I know Senator Savino just 

12          asked, but I just thought perhaps the other 

13          two panelists would like to elaborate.  I've 

14          had a lot of constituents email me that they 

15          want the early retirement.  And I just 

16          wondered if the other two panelists had any 

17          more to say on the pros and cons and what the 

18          early retirement would mean for you.

19                 MS. TURNER:  You know, there's no 

20          question that our members would love the 

21          early retirement.  The problem is it won't be 

22          afforded to all of our members.  Right?  

23                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GRIFFIN:  Yes.

24                 MS. TURNER:  And therein lies the 


                                                                   170

 1          problem.  If you can't give it to all of them 

 2          and give them an opportunity -- and 

 3          especially the ones that have been working 

 4          24/7 in the direct care facilities, putting 

 5          their families and their lives on the line.  

 6                 If you can't offer it to everybody, 

 7          how do some get to take it but those doing 

 8          some of the hardest jobs that we have 

 9          wouldn't be able to avail themselves of it?  

10          How do we do that?  

11                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GRIFFIN:  Right.  That 

12          makes sense.  It really does.

13                 MR. GARRIDO:  And I appreciate and 

14          respect Fran's position, but let me just say 

15          for us, we have a different perspective, 

16          right?  

17                 We have a lot of jobs that are 

18          changing that we can allow folks to leave and 

19          not have to rehire.  On the other hand, we 

20          have jobs that we now need, like contact 

21          tracers, that are critical to our function.  

22          And instead of laying them off, it would make 

23          a lot of sense if we can allow those to 

24          retire humanely, leave on their own time, and 


                                                                   171

 1          then repurpose hiring to some of the newly 

 2          created positions.

 3                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GRIFFIN:  Makes sense.

 4                 MS. DiANTONIO:  And I would actually 

 5          echo what CSEA, what Fran has said.  I mean, 

 6          if the state isn't going to backfill 

 7          positions, if the state's going to 

 8          cherry-pick who gets it -- it doesn't -- 

 9          yeah, it makes the few members that get it 

10          happy, but it leaves everybody else, frankly, 

11          screwed.  Because you don't have enough 

12          people now to get the work done.  

13                 And you have people that are given an 

14          incentive and we're still in a huge staffing 

15          hole and we're still in a huge deficit to 

16          provide the services that are critical.  

17                 And so it's just one of those things 

18          that unless everybody was offered and unless 

19          they were going to backfill, you wouldn't get 

20          the support on a statewide level for it 

21          from -- at least from where we're sitting.

22                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GRIFFIN:  Yeah, that 

23          makes sense.  And also the risk of having 

24          everything privatized is a huge risk as well.


                                                                   172

 1                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Because I think 

 2          it goes back to Diane Savino's point that the 

 3          story in New York City and the story for the 

 4          state can be very different in this 

 5          situation.  So thank you all.

 6                 Our next questioner is Senator John 

 7          Liu.

 8                 SENATOR LIU:  There definitely is a 

 9          little bit of a delay in the unmuting.  But 

10          thank you very much, Madam Chair.

11                 Great to see all of our panelists here 

12          today.  You look mahvelous, Randi, Fran -- 

13          long time --

14                 MS. TURNER:   Long time.

15                 SENATOR LIU:  And of course Henry is 

16          looking like a magazine cover.

17                 I want to say from the outset that we 

18          are truly -- we feel so much sorrow for all 

19          of our state and city workers who have given 

20          their lives to COVID.  And, you know, it's -- 

21          these are essential workers that all 

22          New Yorkers rely upon.  So our condolences to 

23          the members who have passed, but also thank 

24          you to all your members for the continuing 


                                                                   173

 1          work that you do.  

 2                 I also want to mention, because I 

 3          think this is the first hearing he was not 

 4          able to part of, our dearly beloved brother 

 5          and someone who was like a dad to 

 6          Henry Garrido, Oliver Gray used to be very 

 7          much engaged in these discussions.  He didn't 

 8          pass from COVID, but he did leave us last 

 9          summer.  So I just want to just give him a 

10          moment of silence in this hearing because 

11          Oliver Gray --

12                 (Zoom interruption.)

13                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Everyone else 

14          please go on mute.  Sorry.  Go on, John.

15                 SENATOR LIU:  Just a very quick moment 

16          of silence for Oliver Gray, who contributed 

17          so much to not only DC 37 but our city and 

18          state and indeed nation.

19                 (Moment of silence.)

20                 SENATOR LIU:  Thank you.

21                 I wanted to say a few things about 

22          what Senator Savino had already started 

23          talking about, which is the early retirement 

24          incentive.  DC 37, as Henry mentioned, 


                                                                   174

 1          already gave $160 million towards staving off 

 2          layoffs of employees that are needed.  The 

 3          City of New York needs these employees.  And 

 4          as always, the union steps up to help out.  

 5          In the case of early retirement incentives, 

 6          that is something that could be used so that 

 7          layoffs could be avoided.

 8                 I think the distinction here that 

 9          needs to be made, in the case of the City of 

10          New York they've asked for a fiscal note, 

11          which is a cost estimate of how much the 

12          early retirement incentive would cost the 

13          city eventually in terms of future pension 

14          obligations, et cetera.  And so that's what 

15          the city is considering alongside the union.

16                 As far as state employees, the 

17          Governor has not said anything about -- at 

18          least to my knowledge, has not said anything 

19          about early retirement incentives for state 

20          employees.  You know, he hasn't talked about 

21          layoffs per se, but that's something that 

22          needs to be considered in the future.  

23                 Many of our colleagues in the Senate 

24          have talked about early retirement incentives 


                                                                   175

 1          for their local government employees.  That's 

 2          something that those local governments need 

 3          to consider.  Whether it be a town or a 

 4          county government, it has to be considered 

 5          how much the fiscal impact on the state 

 6          pension plan -- which they are part of -- 

 7          would be.  

 8                 So just like the City of New York asks 

 9          for a fiscal note for the city pension plans, 

10          those local governments also need to ask for 

11          the same kind of cost estimates.  Because 

12          early retirement incentives are not free.  

13          They may be a better solution to layoffs, but 

14          they're certainly not cost-free. 

15                 Thank you, Madam Chair.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you, 

17          John Liu.  

18                 Assembly, do you have anyone left?  

19                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, I just 

20          wanted just a few seconds to thank my friends 

21          for testifying here today.  And I want to 

22          join with my colleagues in offering 

23          condolences to all of the members who really 

24          put themselves on the frontline, and both 


                                                                   176

 1          those who fell victim to COVID-19 and 

 2          survived and may be suffering, continuing to 

 3          suffer and those who unfortunately gave their 

 4          lives to help New Yorkers on the frontlines.  

 5                 I appreciate, you know, not just for 

 6          myself, but on behalf of all of our 

 7          colleagues, appreciate the work that your 

 8          members do and very much appreciate the time 

 9          that you're here with us today to share your 

10          comments.  Thank you.

11                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  And I 

12          also want to thank you all for being with us.  

13                 And of course you know, but I want 

14          everyone to know, we read the testimony, our 

15          staffs read the testimony.  And we take these 

16          issues very seriously.  So if anyone thinks, 

17          you know, we gave them three minutes and that 

18          was all the attention we paid, I hope you 

19          understand that we do these giant budget 

20          hearings, we try to get as much participation 

21          as possible across the state.  

22                 And the good news about Zoom, 

23          everybody does seem to come to these 

24          hearings, they stay all day, they have 


                                                                   177

 1          questions.  And so we've got to get stricter 

 2          with our time limits just because there are 

 3          so many people who do want to tell us things.

 4                 But all the testimony is up online, 

 5          available to the public and the Senate and 

 6          the Assembly and their staffs.

 7                 So again, thank you very much on 

 8          behalf of all of your workers and all the 

 9          amazing work you do for the State of New York 

10          every day.  Thank you.

11                 And now I'm going to go to the next 

12          panel --

13                 THE MODERATOR:  I believe 

14          Assemblywoman Giglio has a question before we 

15          move on.

16                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Helene, is that 

17          okay with you?  

18                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes.  A late 

19          starter, Assemblywoman Giglio.

20                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I didn't see a 

21          hand up, I'm sorry.

22                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Can we go to 

23          the Assemblywoman?  

24                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN GIGLIO:  Yup, I'm trying 


                                                                   178

 1          to start my video.  

 2                 Okay, I want to thank you all too.  I 

 3          mean, having my brother-in-law be in one of 

 4          the facilities -- and the care that the state 

 5          employees give to the people that are within 

 6          the facilities is unsurpassable, and you are 

 7          very much appreciated.  And it kills me to 

 8          see the cuts.  And it kills me to see what's 

 9          happening to our vulnerable population and to 

10          the service workers in the industry.  And I 

11          will do everything that I can to make sure 

12          that the budget is maintained and that your 

13          workers are cared for.

14                 So I just want to thank you.

15                 MS. TURNER:  Thank you.

16                 MS. DiANTONIO:  Thank you.

17                 MR. GARRIDO:  Thank you.

18                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  So 

19          now we will excuse you, and we'll move to 

20          Panel B, the organization of New York State 

21          Management/Confidential Employees, Barbara 

22          Zaron, and the Retired Public Employees 

23          Association, Edward Farrell.

24                 Good evening.


                                                                   179

 1                 MR. FARRELL:  Good evening.

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I see you, Ed; I 

 3          don't see Barbara.  Oh, there's Barbara 

 4          coming along.

 5                 MS. ZARON:  I wasn't able to unmute.

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  I know.  It's 

 7          personally messing with everyone today.  

 8          There she is.

 9                 MS. ZARON:  Okay, got it.

10                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, are you 

11          ready?

12                 MS. ZARON:  I am ready, thank you.  

13                 Thank you for the opportunity to 

14          testify today on our workforce concerns.  I'm 

15          really happy to see you folks, and I feel 

16          like déjà vu all over again.  

17                 We're here again asking for our 

18          retiree parity payment bill.  Thank you, 

19          Senator Gounardes, for introducing it, and in 

20          the Assembly Pat Fahy is introducing it for 

21          us.  This will provide a token payment to M/C 

22          retirees who never received any payment for 

23          the 2009 and 2010 salary withholdings.  And 

24          thank you to RPEA for your support.


                                                                   180

 1                 We're here also -- that's the good -- 

 2          that's the good stuff.  We're here also to 

 3          oppose the Governor's proposals related to 

 4          the state retirees health insurance so-called 

 5          reforms.  Specifically, elimination of the 

 6          Medicare Part B IRMAA reimbursement, 

 7          imposition of a cap on state reimbursement of 

 8          Medicare Part B standard premium this year at 

 9          148.50, and implementation of a differential 

10          healthcare premium contribution to new 

11          civilian hires at retirement.

12                 This is probably the eighth year that 

13          we're here saying no to these things.  And 

14          fortunately, in our perspective, you, the 

15          Legislature, have also refused to include it 

16          in the budget.  

17                 So the other major issue that our M/Cs 

18          have asked us to talk about is you already 

19          heard that salary increases were deferred 

20          this year, and that was true for the M/C 

21          employees as well.  M/Cs also took another 

22          hit in April of 2020; that is the deferral of 

23          their performance advances, which are their 

24          steps in the salary schedule, and longevity 


                                                                   181

 1          payments, which only Grade 17 and below M/Cs 

 2          are eligible for.

 3                 So we think this is unfair.  We think 

 4          these payments need to be paid.  And there 

 5          should be full restoration of the deferred 

 6          2020 performance advances and longevities.  

 7          Future salary increases -- because we need to 

 8          look to the future -- should be equal to 

 9          union-represented, with optional longevity 

10          payments for M/Cs above Grade 17, and leave 

11          accruals should be at the same level as other 

12          employees.

13                 We recognize the fiscal challenges 

14          we're all facing, but M/Cs should not be 

15          expected to bear a larger share of the burden 

16          of producing savings.  They want equity and 

17          equality while increasing demands are put on 

18          their shoulders.  M/Cs always step up, but 

19          they are near or at the breaking point and 

20          are planning retirement, which raises a 

21          series of issues about managing the workforce 

22          and state programs and services, current and 

23          future.

24                 And I did it in three minutes.


                                                                   182

 1                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Very nice.  Thank 

 2          you.

 3                 MS. ZARON:  Thank you.

 4                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  And Ed?

 5                 MR. FARRELL:  Yes.

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Hi.

 7                 MR. FARRELL:  Hi.  Happy to be here.  

 8          Thank you very much.

 9                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

10                 MR. FARRELL:  Chairwoman Krueger, 

11          Chairwoman Weinstein, members of the 

12          committee, I'm the executive director of the 

13          Retired Public Employees Association.  We 

14          represent the interests of the 500,000 

15          retirees from the New York State Retirement 

16          System.  

17                 And you probably know that 80 percent 

18          of us stay right here in New York.  You see 

19          us in the district; you know who we are.  

20          We're an important part of the community, 

21          both the fabric of the community and we 

22          contribute financially to the well-being of 

23          the community as well.

24                 I'll just quickly talk about this, 


                                                                   183

 1          because it's been brought up several times.  

 2          And I thank you for your past support about 

 3          the Governor's proposed cuts in NYSHIP as it 

 4          relates to retirees.

 5                 Now, I said there are 500,000 

 6          retirees.  Half of them are in NYSHIP.  So 

 7          this budget proposal has profound 

 8          implications for retirees in New York.  

 9          Capping the reimbursement rate for 

10          Medicare -- you know what a cap does.  And 

11          over time, people will just lose money.  And 

12          it's not a good thing.  

13                 And it's important to point out that 

14          the average retirement benefit is $24,000.  

15          So this is not the place to go to look for 

16          ways to raise money.

17                 Same thing, we also oppose the IRMAA 

18          proposal.  And you've been supportive in the 

19          past, and we thank you for that.  And we hope 

20          you will do it again.

21                 There are just a couple of things I 

22          want to touch upon in our legislative program 

23          which have fiscal implications.  The first of 

24          which, you may be aware of, is retiree access 


                                                                   184

 1          to skilled nursing facilities.  If you are a 

 2          retiree in the Empire Plan and you need to go 

 3          to one of these facilities, you get 20 days 

 4          coverage.  If you are an active employee in 

 5          the Empire Plan and you need to go to one of 

 6          these, you can get 120 days.  

 7                 You know, it's just illogical.  And if 

 8          anyone is going to go to a skilled nursing 

 9          facility, it's probably going to be a senior 

10          more so than an active employee.  So we urge 

11          you to take a look at that and perhaps fix 

12          it.  

13                 The survivors benefit has not 

14          increased in 50 years.  We ask for a modest 

15          increase in that.  It's something that could 

16          be addressed.

17                 The full reimbursement of prescription 

18          drugs -- there's legislation on all of these, 

19          by the way.  But for the Medicare Part D, 

20          when that came into effect, there was a 

21          decision by Civil Service not to reimburse 

22          the IRMAA piece of Medicare prescription Part 

23          D for those in NYSHIP.  

24                 We strongly support Barbara and other 


                                                                   185

 1          people who have mentioned the M/C situation.  

 2          That's something that definitely needs to be 

 3          addressed.  

 4                 And in closing, I just want to point 

 5          out the Governor says he has to do these 

 6          things because we're not living within his 2 

 7          percent cap.  If you look at the cost of 

 8          NYSHIP healthcare over the last three years, 

 9          it comes in at 2.8, and that includes the 

10          actives and the retirees.  So there's no 

11          premise to think that we are in fact driving 

12          a state deficit, and that's a very weak 

13          argument.  

14                 So I thank you.

15                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

16                 Let's see.  Any Senators who have any 

17          questions?

18                 All right.  Helene, any 

19          Assemblymembers?  

20                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  No, I do not 

21          have any Assemblymembers.  I would just 

22          remind Barbara Zaron that it is Groundhog's 

23          Day.  

24                 (Laughter.)


                                                                   186

 1                 MS. ZARON:  That's very funny.

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

 3                 People were complaining on 

 4          Staten Island that it was videotaped and they 

 5          didn't actually get to see it live.

 6                 SENATOR SAVINO:  It's true.

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Diane, you may 

 8          have a problem at home.

 9                 SENATOR SAVINO:  It's true.  But it's 

10          not as if, you know, Staten Island Chuck 

11          actually whispers in Kenny Mitchell's ear.  

12          He's a rodent, not a meteorologist.

13                 (Laughter.)

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  It's been a long 

15          day.  But thank you very much, Barbara, and 

16          thank you, Ed.

17                 MS. ZARON:  Thank you.

18                 MR. FARRELL:  Thank you.  And thank 

19          you for your support.  

20                 SENATOR SAVINO:  Don't worry, we'll 

21          protect the retiree stuff, because we're all 

22          close to being retirees.

23                 MS. ZARON:  We're thinking of you.

24                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.


                                                                   187

 1                 MR. FARRELL:  Thank you.

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  For our next 

 3          panel -- we're up to Panel C, for those of 

 4          you following along -- we have the New York 

 5          Immigration Coalition, the Center for 

 6          New York City Affairs at The New School, the 

 7          National Employment Lawyers Association, and 

 8          the Manufacturers Association of Central 

 9          New York.

10                 These may not all be exactly the same 

11          theme, but we're doing our best to try to 

12          group you together.

13                 First up, Vanessa Agudelo, manager of 

14          member engagement, New York Immigration 

15          Coalition.  

16                 MS. AGUDELO:  Thank you.  Good 

17          evening, everyone.  My name is Vanessa 

18          Agudelo, and I am the manager of member 

19          engagement for the Hudson Valley at the 

20          New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella 

21          policy and advocacy organization that works 

22          statewide with over 200 immigrant-serving 

23          member organizations.  Thank you to the 

24          legislative members and both chairs for 


                                                                   188

 1          convening this important hearing allowing me 

 2          to testify.  

 3                 The COVID-19 crisis has and continues 

 4          to hit Black, Indigenous, people of color, 

 5          immigrant, and working-class individuals the 

 6          hardest.  In almost every way, immigrants and 

 7          their families have been some of the hardest 

 8          hit by the pandemic and the ensuing response. 

 9          Immigrants risk heightened exposure to  

10          COVID-19 as essential workers and, when sick, 

11          suffer higher mortality rates. 

12                 Immigrants are over-represented in the 

13          industries hit the hardest by the economic 

14          downturn, and were therefore more likely to 

15          be left unemployed than the native-born 

16          workforce.  And many immigrant families were 

17          shamefully and purposely shut out of federal 

18          relief efforts and continue to struggle.  

19                 COVID has not only taken far too many 

20          New Yorkers from us, but it has also wreaked 

21          havoc on our economy.  New York State faces a 

22          $60 billion deficit.  We understand the need 

23          to manage this deficit but reject any effort 

24          that would see the budget balanced on the 


                                                                   189

 1          backs of the working class and low-income New 

 2          Yorkers.  Any cuts to education, healthcare 

 3          or other social service or safety-net 

 4          programs will only exacerbate the effects of 

 5          this pandemic on individuals and families 

 6          across the state.  

 7                 We are supporting the effort that will 

 8          both support the workers that were excluded 

 9          while also helping to close future budget 

10          gaps.  Even under extreme economic 

11          conditions, we still have the ability to feed 

12          two birds with one seed.  

13                 The Invest in Our New York Act offers 

14          a package of ideal legislation that could 

15          raise upwards of $15 billion annually.  This 

16          Legislature and the Governor can and must 

17          deliver long-overdue relief.  We and our 

18          members have received nothing.  

19                 This is why our coalition is asking 

20          for $3.5 billion to create a fund to provide 

21          emergency financial relief to immigrant 

22          workers, individuals recently released from 

23          incarceration or immigration detention, and 

24          businesses or self-employed individuals who 


                                                                   190

 1          lack documentation to apply for small 

 2          business relief.  

 3                 This fund would provide flat-rate 

 4          monthly cash payments direct to families, 

 5          based on $750 per week to each worker -- what 

 6          a typical low-wage worker with Unemployment 

 7          Insurance receives.  

 8                 It would offer monthly payments 

 9          retroactive to the start of the 

10          COVID-impacted unemployment crisis, and 

11          continuing at least through the end of 2021, 

12          like Unemployment Insurance, with triggers to 

13          continue the program thereafter.

14                 It would also offer flexible 

15          application and proof requirements given the 

16          urgent crisis situation.  This would include 

17          self-attestation and information that 

18          off-the-books workers are able to provide.  

19          Documents for proving identity can be the 

20          same as those for getting driver's licenses 

21          under Green Light.  

22                 Our healthcare workers, grocery store 

23          workers, delivery workers, transit workers 

24          and all other frontline workers have helped 


                                                                   191

 1          maintain our way of life while paying the 

 2          ultimate price of disproportionate deaths due 

 3          to COVID-19. 

 4                 Meanwhile, many wealthy New Yorkers 

 5          continued to flourish.  New York State's 

 6          120 billionaires saw their combined wealth 

 7          rise by over $77 billion in the first months 

 8          of the pandemic.  We must demand that those 

 9          who have profited the most during this crisis 

10          pay their fair share to support the recovery 

11          of the state.  

12                 Once again, thank you for convening 

13          this extremely important hearing and allowing 

14          me to testify.  Myself and our entire 

15          organization looks forward to continuing to 

16          work with you all to come up with solutions 

17          that ensure that everyone enjoys full and 

18          equal opportunity to recover from the threat 

19          of this virus and the worst potential 

20          economic downturn since the Great Depression.

21                 Thank you.

22                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.

23                 Next, James Parrott, professor, Center 

24          for New York City Affairs at The New School.


                                                                   192

 1                 DR. PARROTT:  Good evening --

 2                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Good evening.

 3                 DR. PARROTT:  -- distinguished 

 4          Senators and members of the Assembly.  James 

 5          Parrott is my name.  I'm the director of 

 6          economic and fiscal policies at the Center 

 7          for New York City Affairs at The New School.  

 8          Thanks for the opportunity to testify on 

 9          workforce issues.

10                 I've been closely examining the impact 

11          of COVID-19 on the state's economy and its 

12          workforce.  New York State was the early 

13          epicenter of COVID cases and has been more 

14          cautious than other states in reopening.  As 

15          a result, the pandemic has taken a greater 

16          jobs toll in New York State than any other 

17          state except Hawaii.  

18                 As of early January, over 2.4 million 

19          state residents were receiving Unemployment 

20          Insurance.  That's one out of every four 

21          New Yorkers in the labor force before the 

22          pandemic.  Part-time work by workers who 

23          would like to work full-time has soared 

24          during the pandemic as businesses struggle to 


                                                                   193

 1          reopen.  There are an estimated 600,000 

 2          involuntary part-time workers in New York.  

 3                 Partial weeks of unemployment benefits 

 4          soared to an historical high of 25 weeks -- 

 5          25 percent of all weeks compensated during 

 6          the last three months of 2020.  That's up 

 7          from 9 percent the year before.  

 8                 I want to focus on the problems with 

 9          the partial UI system.  Fortunately, 

10          Governor Cuomo and the Labor Commissioner 

11          acted two weeks ago to lessen the penalty for 

12          workers going back to work part-time.  That 

13          was a significant improvement, but it doesn't 

14          go far enough and it wasn't intended as a 

15          permanent fix.  It was a temporary fix.  

16                 Governor Cuomo proposed a permanent 

17          fix that incorporates a partial benefit 

18          credit, an amount of earnings a worker can 

19          receive without any benefit reduction.  The 

20          interim system provides a form of partial 

21          benefit credit but it's supplied in a very 

22          clunky way, given the constraints of an 

23          antiquated computer system.  

24                 The Governor's proposed permanent fix 


                                                                   194

 1          provides for a cleaner application of the 

 2          credit, but it is not as beneficial to 

 3          workers as a bill passed by the Senate and 

 4          the Assembly with overwhelming support in the 

 5          last two weeks.  The bill, sponsored by 

 6          Assemblymember Stirpe and Senator Ramos, 

 7          would institute a partial benefit credit 

 8          equal to 50 percent of a worker's weekly UI 

 9          benefit.  The Governor's bill only applies a 

10          40 percent partial credit.  The difference 

11          between 40 and 50 percent means $143 each 

12          month to a part-time worker.  

13                 There's another difference between the 

14          Legislature's bill and the Governor's bill.  

15          The Legislature's bill would take effect in 

16          30 days.  The Governor's bill would take 

17          effect after a year.  The difference that 

18          that makes when you add it up across the 

19          600,000 unemployed workers is $2.8 billion.  

20          Eighty percent of this would come from the 

21          federal government.  

22                 So I urge you to act and act quickly 

23          to negotiate with the Governor to enact the 

24          Legislature's bill and put in place those 


                                                                   195

 1          improved partial benefits.  The time to do 

 2          this is now, given the state of unemployment 

 3          in New York.  

 4                 Thank you.  

 5                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  Thank 

 6          you, James.

 7                 Next, Miriam Clark, chair, National 

 8          Employment Lawyers Association. 

 9                 MS. CLARK:  Thank you, Senator 

10          Krueger, and thank you, Assemblymember 

11          Weinstein, for allowing me to testify this 

12          evening on behalf of NELA/New York.  

13                 Tonight I want to talk about 

14          protecting workers who complain about what 

15          they reasonably believe to be unsafe working 

16          conditions or unlawful working conditions.  

17                 New York does have a whistleblower 

18          law, a so-called whistleblower law, which is 

19          Labor Law 740.  You could call it the 

20          Whistleblower Non-Protection Act, because it 

21          actually covers so few people.  It was 

22          enacted in 1984, and it only protects a very, 

23          very small minority of workers who complain.  

24                 It protects an employee who complains 


                                                                   196

 1          of conduct that is both a proven or provable 

 2          violation of law, rule or recognition, and a 

 3          provable, substantial, specific threat to 

 4          public health or safety.  Both of these 

 5          prongs have to be met, and the employee has 

 6          to be able to prove that both of these 

 7          conditions exist.  

 8                 So for example, in a leading case, a 

 9          physicist working at an atomic lab reasonably 

10          believed that he and his coworkers were being 

11          exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, and 

12          he reported it to the DOE and he got fired.  

13          The court held that he was not protected 

14          because he personally could not prove that 

15          there were unlawful levels of radiation.  The 

16          employer could have proved it by doing an 

17          investigation, but it refused to do it.

18                 Lots of employees also get fired 

19          because they complain of unlawful conduct.  

20          And that unlawful conduct, if it's not in 

21          violation of a law, rule or regulation, does 

22          not -- that complaint does not protect the 

23          employee.

24                 The law essentially lay dormant for 


                                                                   197

 1          many years, and then came the COVID pandemic.  

 2          And suddenly thousands and thousands of 

 3          workers were being exposed on a daily basis 

 4          to conditions that they really thought were 

 5          dangerous.  Hospital janitors were worried 

 6          about not having enough PPE.  Retail workers 

 7          were worried about not enough social 

 8          distancing.  Factory workers were worried 

 9          about working in close quarters.  And any of 

10          those people who complained were not covered 

11          by the whistleblower law.

12                 So the Legislature has taken some 

13          steps to ameliorate the situation with regard 

14          to healthcare workers, with regard to public 

15          employees.  But in general, for thousands and 

16          thousands of New York workers, the decision 

17          to stand up and report something that they 

18          reasonably believed to be dangerous or 

19          unlawful means that they are likely to lose 

20          their job.

21                 Many other states, such as New Jersey, 

22          have robust protection for those who speak 

23          out, but not New York.

24                 There are two excellent bills that 


                                                                   198

 1          would alleviate this situation, one in the 

 2          Senate, sponsored by Senator Ramos, that has 

 3          passed the Senate.  There are excellent bills 

 4          in the Assembly, one which is sponsored by 

 5          Assemblymember Weinstein.  And we look 

 6          forward to working with the Legislature and 

 7          the Governor to pass legislation that will 

 8          save not only the jobs but the lives of 

 9          thousands of New Yorkers.  

10                 Thank you.

11                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

12                 And last on this panel, Martha Ponge, 

13          director of apprenticeship, Manufacturers 

14          Association of Central New York.

15                 MS. PONGE:  Thank you.  Good evening, 

16          Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Weinstein 

17          and the committee members.  Thank you for the 

18          opportunity to speak here tonight.  

19                 My name is Martha Ponge, and I 

20          represent the Manufacturers Alliance of 

21          New York State, which is comprised of seven 

22          manufacturing associations serving each of 

23          the state's Economic Development Regions.  

24          Our work through the Manufacturers 


                                                                   199

 1          Intermediary Apprenticeship Program, known as 

 2          MIAP, supports equitable access to registered 

 3          apprenticeship for all individuals regardless 

 4          of their work experience or their academic 

 5          qualifications.

 6                 In order to continue this highly 

 7          successful and effective program and to meet 

 8          the growing needs of employers across our 

 9          state, we respectfully request the 

10          restoration of the legislative line item for 

11          MIAP for $750,000 in this year's budget.

12                 COVID has exposed the fragility of 

13          careers in industry sectors such as 

14          hospitality and food service.  Conversely, 

15          manufacturing and high-tech fields are still 

16          providing rapidly growing employment 

17          opportunities.  Today nearly 51 percent of 

18          New York State residents earn less than 

19          $40,000 per year.  And as we emerge from 

20          COVID, access to springboard careers with an 

21          average salary of $71,000 a year is more 

22          important than ever.

23                 The employment disruption that was 

24          caused by the pandemic has provided an 


                                                                   200

 1          immediate opportunity for manufacturers to 

 2          recruit unemployed and underemployed 

 3          individuals, and MIAP will help those 

 4          employers facilitate the recruitment, the 

 5          up-skilling, and the retention of these new 

 6          workers.

 7                 Statewide, MIAP currently supports 

 8          over 200 companies and 25 different trades.  

 9          And despite the adverse effects of COVID, 

10          this year alone we expect to add over 

11          150 apprentices and award journey worker 

12          certifications to over 40 apprentices.

13                 During the pandemic, employers 

14          supported by MIAP maintained over 98 percent 

15          of all active apprentices, while increasing 

16          career apprenticeship activity by over 80 

17          percent.  MIAP successfully transitioned to 

18          100 percent digital support, allowing 

19          employers to maintain access to on-the-job 

20          learning and related instruction services.

21                 In 2021, the Alliance will develop 

22          pilot programs with a laser focus on youth 

23          and adults from minority and low- and 

24          moderate-income communities, creating 


                                                                   201

 1          apprenticeship pathways directly from high 

 2          school and rapidly up-skilling individuals 

 3          displaced as a result of COVID.  Already this 

 4          year our Rochester partner has matched 65 

 5          youths with 32 companies, an increase in 

 6          company participation with youth by over 500 

 7          percent from last year.

 8                 Our work over the past year has grown 

 9          to support other industry sector 

10          associations, such as Big I NY and the 

11          Semiconductor Association, in their efforts 

12          to establish themselves as sponsors of 

13          registered apprenticeship.  Our work with 

14          these member associations is anticipated to 

15          bring 3400 additional small and medium-sized 

16          businesses to the table in the next 12 to 18 

17          months.

18                 Again, I'm here to respectfully 

19          request the restoration of the legislative 

20          line item for MIAP of $750,000 so that we may 

21          continue this very critical work.  And I 

22          thank you very, very much for your 

23          consideration.  

24                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 


                                                                   202

 1          much, all of you.  I don't see any hands up, 

 2          so I have a question.  And we'll see if 

 3          anyone else decides they want to jump in.

 4                 So James Parrott, you talked about the 

 5          way that the way the Governor's budget writes 

 6          in the starting up of the part-time 

 7          unemployment, we're going to miss out on a 

 8          huge amount of federal money.  Why would we 

 9          want to do that?  

10                 DR. PARROTT:  Well, I don't think that 

11          we would want to do that.  It would bring -- 

12          you know, as the Governor has very forcefully 

13          made the case, New York State needs to 

14          receive more federal funds.  So by having, 

15          you know, a 50 percent disregard as opposed 

16          to a 40 percent disregard in the Governor's 

17          approach means $140 a month to an unemployed 

18          worker, you know, times 600,000 unemployed 

19          workers who are working part-time at this 

20          point.  

21                 You know, all of the -- again, the 

22          numbers are so astounding that a lot of 

23          people -- it hasn't registered with a lot of 

24          people:  2.4 million New Yorkers received 


                                                                   203

 1          unemployment benefits in early January.  The 

 2          number is not that much different today, if 

 3          we have the more recent data.

 4                 Twenty-five percent of people are only 

 5          able to go back to work part-time.  They're 

 6          still receiving some unemployment benefit, 

 7          but only part-time.  So any improvement that 

 8          the state can make -- the sooner the better, 

 9          obviously -- makes a huge difference to the 

10          workers.  

11                 I didn't have an opportunity to point 

12          out that two-thirds of the unemployed 

13          New York workers are persons of color.  They 

14          tend to be low-income workers who are working 

15          in industries that are the most heavily 

16          affected by this.  That will -- you know, 

17          that additional money, particularly the 

18          federal part, will help spur New York's 

19          economy and will help us recover sooner 

20          rather than later.

21                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  And 

22          whoever gave me 10 minutes, we're all taking 

23          three minutes.  So thank you.  

24                 So my time is up, but I see I have 


                                                                   204

 1          encouraged an Assemblywoman to raise her 

 2          hand.

 3                 CHAIRWOMAN WEINSTEIN:  Yes, so we'll 

 4          go to Jo Anne Simon.

 5                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  Sorry, that 

 6          little --

 7                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  For everyone, 

 8          it's just doing that tonight.

 9                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  It is.  

10                 So thank you, Mr. Parrott, you have 

11          just answered the question I had for you.  I 

12          appreciate your testimony very much.

13                 I have a question for Ms. Clark.  You 

14          testified about whistleblower protection, 

15          which is something I've been very concerned 

16          about.  And I'm wondering if you have a way 

17          of sort of quantifying, for example, how that 

18          could end up costing New York money.  So 

19          whether it's unemployment, whether it is 

20          people not working and needing to use other 

21          benefits.  

22                 And also do you have an opinion as to, 

23          you know, the limitations that we have on 

24          unemployment -- one is part-time 


                                                                   205

 1          unemployment.  But are there people who 

 2          should be protected by unemployment as well?

 3                 MS. CLARK:  Those are great questions, 

 4          Assemblymember Simon.  

 5                 Taking the second one first, I mean, 

 6          certainly everyone should be protected by 

 7          unemployment.  I know that undocumented 

 8          workers, gig workers are especially hard-hit 

 9          by the pandemic and should absolutely be 

10          protected.

11                 In terms of quantifying how many 

12          people are affected by the whistleblower 

13          law -- the lack of a whistleblower law, 

14          there's no real way to do it, except that I 

15          think I heard earlier from the Department of 

16          Labor that 43,000 people complained of unsafe 

17          working conditions.  

18                 So every single one of those 43,000 

19          people, unless they're public employees or 

20          unless they're healthcare workers, are 

21          subject to being terminated by their 

22          employers because they complained.  And those 

23          people, when they get terminated, of course 

24          they apply for unemployment.  They should be 


                                                                   206

 1          eligible for unemployment.  

 2                 And they're obviously either -- at 

 3          this point, leaving the workforce, it's very 

 4          difficult for them to return, so of course 

 5          it's an enormous drain on the UI system as 

 6          well.

 7                 ASSEMBLYWOMAN SIMON:  Thank you.

 8                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay.  I believe 

 9          we have now completed this panel.  Thank you 

10          very much for being with us tonight.  And 

11          again, we read everyone's testimony and we 

12          distribute it to everyone.

13                 So our next panel is Panel D, the 

14          National Day Laborer Organizing Network, 

15          Nadia Marin-Molina; the Workers Justice 

16          Project, Ligia Guallpa -- I apologize in 

17          advance for all the names I get wrong -- and 

18          Transnational Villages Network, 

19          Marco Castillo.  

20                 Good evening, everyone.

21                 MS. MARIN-MOLINA:  Good evening.

22                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Okay, so first up 

23          is Nadia.

24                 MS. MARIN-MOLINA:  Hi, good afternoon.  


                                                                   207

 1          My name is Nadia Marin-Molina.  I'm the 

 2          co-executive director of the National Day 

 3          Laborer Organizing Network.  

 4                 Thank you to the chairs for the 

 5          opportunity to testify today.

 6                 NDLON is a national network with 

 7          12 member organizations in New York, 

 8          specifically in New York City, Westchester 

 9          and Long Island.  Our mission is to improve 

10          the lives of day laborers, migrants and 

11          low-wage workers by building leadership and 

12          power.

13                 From my written testimony, which is 

14          more detailed, I'll just summarize some of 

15          the points and expand on some of the ones you 

16          may not know.  

17                 Our main priority today is to say that 

18          it's time for New York to include excluded 

19          workers.  We want to express the urgent need 

20          to create an Excluded Worker Fund within the 

21          New York State budget which would deliver 

22          income replacement for people who are 

23          excluded from unemployment benefits, which is 

24          what a lot of the conversation has been 


                                                                   208

 1          around.  It includes undocumented and 

 2          recently incarcerated workers and others in 

 3          the cash economy.

 4                 You probably already know that people 

 5          are suffering due to the pandemic and that 

 6          many people are left out of COVID relief.  An 

 7          estimated 597,000 undocumented workers, daily 

 8          laborers, street vendors and domestic workers 

 9          have no safety net and can't access UI.  

10          They've been working and have been devastated 

11          in the past year.

12                 You may also know that excluding 

13          certain groups makes no sense from a public 

14          health perspective.  Day laborers and other 

15          excluded workers provide essential services 

16          such as delivery, cleaning and construction.  

17          When they're exposed to COVID, they work as 

18          well as they can and put their own lives at 

19          risk.  And as a result, Brown and Black 

20          families have been devastated by illness and 

21          death.

22                 So we need an Excluded Worker Fund in 

23          this year's budget, and I'll mention two more 

24          points that you may not know.


                                                                   209

 1                 One is that day laborers and other 

 2          undocumented workers contribute billions of 

 3          dollars but are not allowed to receive a 

 4          dollar in return.  A quote:  Over the past 10 

 5          years, $1.4 billion was paid in unemployment 

 6          insurance taxes in New York based on the work 

 7          of undocumented immigrants, on top of more 

 8          than 1 billion in sales and property taxes, 

 9          on top of what's contributed to the federal 

10          system.

11                 We're asking that you remedy that 

12          injustice during the pandemic and during this 

13          budget.

14                 The second thing that I'll mention 

15          that you may not know is that New York's day 

16          laborer centers are an unrecognized New York 

17          State workforce development program.  They 

18          train community members for work, connect 

19          them with employers, set minimum wages, and 

20          are even second responders after disasters 

21          and blizzards, like today.  They've 

22          distributed thousands of dollars, masks, 

23          boxes of food, and training.

24                 Our member organizations work very 


                                                                   210

 1          hard and are resourceful, but we can't fill 

 2          the gap left by a state and federal 

 3          government that purposely and cruelly 

 4          excludes undocumented and other workers from 

 5          pandemic relief.  We're asking that you 

 6          include the Excluded Workers Fund during the 

 7          budget.  

 8                 The billionaires have grown wealthier 

 9          during the pandemic, and taxing the wealthy 

10          can be used to create this fund and other 

11          community needs as well.  There's no better 

12          time than during the budget.  Other states 

13          and localities have done something.  We're 

14          wholeheartedly supporting the creation of an 

15          Excluded Workers Fund for New York's workers 

16          and for all of our public health.

17                 Thank you.  

18                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

19          much.  

20                 Our next guest is the Workers Justice 

21          Project.

22                 MS. GUALLPA:  Thank you.  Thank you so 

23          much for the opportunity for speaking today.  

24                 My name is Ligia Guallpa.  I am the 


                                                                   211

 1          executive director of the Workers Justice 

 2          Project, one of the few workers centers that 

 3          stayed open during the pandemic to provide 

 4          emergency relief services to more than 18,000 

 5          day laborers, domestic workers, delivery 

 6          workers who were left out to die without 

 7          economic relief, without unemployment 

 8          insurance, without medical insurance, without 

 9          paid sick time leave, without workers' 

10          compensation, and without essential workers' 

11          rights.  

12                 While hundreds of workers were laid 

13          off, workers in industries like construction, 

14          cleaning, restaurants and delivery workers 

15          continued to increasingly work in dangerous 

16          and deadly working conditions.  In New York 

17          there is a growing number of working people, 

18          especially low-wage and Black and immigrant 

19          communities, who were forced to take jobs -- 

20          gig jobs, specifically -- with no essential 

21          rights.  Just this month, actually, the city 

22          reported that the number of gig workers has 

23          increased by 60 percent.  

24                 You might ask yourself why more and 


                                                                   212

 1          more New Yorkers are entering the gig 

 2          economy.  The answer is very simple.  These 

 3          are the only jobs available in the market, 

 4          and the only jobs that New Yorkers can rely 

 5          on to survive this crisis.

 6                 However, these jobs do not offer 

 7          prosperity nor better working opportunities.  

 8          These jobs are turning into one of the most 

 9          deadliest, unpaid and most dangerous jobs in 

10          our state and in our city.

11                 Let's just look at some of the 

12          fastest-growing industries where mostly 

13          immigrant, undocumented and indigenous 

14          communities have been working as essential 

15          workers throughout the pandemic.

16                 The most recent, more than 80,000 

17          app-based food delivery workers are hired as 

18          gig workers by giant companies like DoorDash, 

19          Grubhub, Uber and many others.  While these 

20          companies are making billions in pandemic 

21          profits, they are denying the most essential 

22          worker protections, such as the right to be 

23          paid sick-time leave, minimum wage, the right 

24          to have a safe workplace and access to 


                                                                   213

 1          bathrooms.  

 2                 In addition to being denied basic 

 3          worker protections, the NYPD have failed to 

 4          respond to multiple reports of violent e-bike 

 5          robberies and traffic crimes.  Only this 

 6          month, more than three delivery workers have 

 7          been killed, and every day they're violently 

 8          attacked.  New York has failed to protect 

 9          them.  Our state has allowed these companies 

10          to abuse and exploit these workers at any 

11          cost.

12                 Domestic workers.  There's 200,000 

13          domestic workers in New York, mostly 

14          immigrant and undocumented, who were left out 

15          to clean and disinfect New Yorkers' homes 

16          without safety equipment, without essential 

17          rights.  There are more than 72,000 immigrant 

18          construction workers working as day laborers, 

19          mostly -- some of them, the majority, working 

20          as day laborers, who were also left out to do 

21          this job without any safety protections.  

22          During COVID many were fired for getting 

23          infected by COVID, and thousands of wages are 

24          being and continue to be stolen by wealthy 


                                                                   214

 1          developers and contractors who are building 

 2          our state and our city.

 3                 These are some of the industries that 

 4          our state has failed to invest and protect.  

 5          We're here to demand that included excluded 

 6          workers are provided economic relief and 

 7          essential protections.  Day laborers, 

 8          domestic workers, delivery workers must be 

 9          part of your budget priorities during this --

10                 THE MODERATOR:  Excuse me, your time 

11          is running out.

12                 MS. GUALLPA:  -- year's budget 

13          process.  Thank you.  

14                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  Thank 

15          you very much.

16                 Next, Marco Castillo, Transnational 

17          Villages Network.

18                 MR. CASTILLO:  Thank you very much.  

19          Good evening.  My name is Marco Castillo.  

20          Thank you for the opportunity to testify at 

21          today's Workforce hearing.

22                 I am the founder of {in Spanish}, the 

23          Transnational Villages Network, which is a 

24          nonprofit organization and a network of local 


                                                                   215

 1          groups and committees formed and by led by 

 2          indigenous immigrants living in the tri-state 

 3          area, but mostly in New York.  

 4                 I'm also here as a member of the Fund 

 5          Excluded Workers Coalition.  

 6                 I am here to testify today in support 

 7          of the Excluded Workers Bailout Fund, which 

 8          would deliver desperately needed income 

 9          replacement assistance for New Yorkers that 

10          have been ineligible for unemployment 

11          benefits.  This includes New Yorkers that are 

12          undocumented and recently incarcerated and 

13          indigenous immigrants, as well as those who 

14          operate within the cash economy and families 

15          that have lost their primary breadwinners due 

16          to the pandemic.  

17                 Senator Jessica Ramos has introduced a 

18          bill to create this fund, and Assemblymember 

19          Carmen De La Rosa will introduce an 

20          equivalent bill in the Assembly.

21                 I particularly want to say, according 

22          to the Pew Hispanic Center, Mexicans 

23          represent 14 percent of the Hispanic 

24          population in New York State, which 


                                                                   216

 1          approximately would be half a million.  From 

 2          which, according to my organization, we 

 3          believe that more than 60 percent -- which 

 4          would be approximately 300,000 people -- 

 5          would come from indigenous communities.

 6                 These indigenous immigrants have been 

 7          historically invisible for the federal 

 8          government, for the State of New York and for 

 9          the City of New York in so many policies.  

10          Many of our members don't speak Spanish as 

11          their first language.  They struggle to 

12          understand -- they struggle during the 

13          pandemic to understand any communication that 

14          came from the state.  They were afraid of 

15          reaching out to hospitals.  And they continue 

16          to work as frontline workers, delivering 

17          food, serving people with groceries, cleaning 

18          services.  And in return, they have received 

19          absolutely nothing.

20                 We're talking about families that 

21          right now are moving to live with relatives 

22          or thinking about going to a shelter or going 

23          to the street, after working and exposing 

24          themselves and going through coronavirus by 


                                                                   217

 1          themselves, many times at home with no other 

 2          form of support.

 3                 This is the case not only of 

 4          indigenous immigrants from Mexico, but for 

 5          many other indigenous immigrants from other 

 6          countries that are in New York City.

 7                 We think that the Assembly, the Senate 

 8          and the Governor must deliver long-overdue 

 9          relief, and our coalition is asking for this 

10          $3.5 billion to create a fund that will 

11          deliver flat-rate monthly cash payments to 

12          families and include payments for the 

13          unemployment crisis and uses flexible 

14          application and proof requirements, given the 

15          urgency for this crisis.  

16                 Thank you very much.

17                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you very 

18          much.  

19                 And do we have any Senators or 

20          Assemblymembers who wish to ask questions? 

21                 All right, I don't see a hand, but I 

22          see signaling from Senator Ramos.  So I'm 

23          going to pass it to her.  Senator Ramos, 

24          chair of the Senate Labor Committee.


                                                                   218

 1                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Yes, thank you so 

 2          much.  

 3                 And I want to thank the panelists for 

 4          testifying.  Obviously I am not only in full 

 5          support of supporting our excluded workers 

 6          with economic relief, I carry the bill, as 

 7          Marco mentioned.  

 8                 I'm very thankful to you guys for all 

 9          of the organizing that has been done.  I have 

10          to say, as a partially indigenous Latina and 

11          an Andean woman, I'm really taken aback by 

12          all the organizing that has been taking place 

13          throughout the pandemic.  

14                 And I was wondering if each of you or 

15          any of you can speak to how the 

16          misclassification of workers during this time 

17          has impacted the different workforces that 

18          make up our communities in Queens, in 

19          Brooklyn and beyond.  You know, because very 

20          oftentimes our day laborers, our 

21          deliveristas, our delivery workers, domestic 

22          workers, sex workers, right -- all of these 

23          folks aren't appropriately classified under 

24          the law and can't access unemployment 


                                                                   219

 1          benefits.  

 2                 So can you talk a little bit more 

 3          about the misclassification of workers?

 4                 MS. GUALLPA:  Yeah, I can share a 

 5          little bit and then I'm sure other colleagues 

 6          have -- can speak about it.  

 7                 I think one of the biggest issues that 

 8          we have seen in New York in -- across 

 9          New York State and in New York City, where 

10          there is large growing industries, has been 

11          that as many of the industries have shut 

12          down, such as restaurant industries, many 

13          workers, mostly immigrant, undocumented 

14          indigenous workers, have been fired and 

15          forced into looking for new ways of working.  

16                 And it is not a surprise that many 

17          companies and many employers are looking to 

18          give workers less hours and treat workers 

19          differently without really providing 

20          benefits.  

21                 And what the pandemic has done has 

22          been it has created sort of this new economy 

23          where mostly the ones that are profiting and 

24          taking a big share of it has been big 


                                                                   220

 1          corporations, such as the example of DoorDash 

 2          and other companies.

 3                 And what they're doing is more and 

 4          more is to hire workers more temporarily.  

 5          And what that does is not only excludes them 

 6          from accessing unemployment insurance, but 

 7          also excludes them from basic protections 

 8          such as having the right to a minimum wage.  

 9          Some of the deliveristas, or delivery 

10          workers, they're --

11                 SENATOR RAMOS:  And there's so much 

12          wage theft.  Sorry, Ligia, because we have 

13          seven seconds.  There's a lot of wage theft 

14          going on as well, right?  

15                 MS. GUALLPA:  Wage theft, unsafe 

16          working conditions, no minimum wage, no 

17          workers' compensation.  All these issues have 

18          put workers at the edge of literally dying 

19          without any protections.

20                 SENATOR RAMOS:  Well, this is why we 

21          had to create the Workplace Fatalities 

22          Registry that we passed in both the Senate 

23          and the Assembly, because we haven't been 

24          counting how many people are dying on the job 


                                                                   221

 1          in New York.  It's unconscionable.

 2                 Well, thank you so much.  It was great 

 3          to see you guys.  Thank you for everything 

 4          you're doing.

 5                 MS. GUALLPA:  Thank you.  

 6                 CHAIRWOMAN KRUEGER:  Thank you.  

 7                 Well, unless someone else wants to 

 8          raise a hand quickly, I'm going to actually 

 9          announce that we are closing down our second 

10          hearing for the day.  

11                 I want to thank the last panel.  As 

12          I've thanked every panel, please know that 

13          the full testimony you submit will be up 

14          online, available to all members of the 

15          Legislature and our staffs and the public to 

16          review.  

17                 And you can actually still submit 

18          testimony even after these hearings today.  

19          So you still have time to submit testimony if 

20          you're out there and you've been motivated to 

21          wish to submit something.

22                 With that, I want to thank everybody 

23          who stayed with us off and on all day.  Thank 

24          you to my chairs and my rankers in both 


                                                                   222

 1          houses.  We do not have a budget hearing 

 2          tomorrow, so don't think you have to get up 

 3          and tune into us at 9:30 tomorrow morning.  

 4          We do have another budget hearing on 

 5          Thursday, and that will be the Higher 

 6          Education budget hearing.  

 7                 So again, thank you all for your hard 

 8          work and your participation.

 9                 If you're outside anywhere, get home 

10          very safely.  A lot of snow upstate, I hear.  

11          Take care.  

12                 (Whereupon, the budget hearing 

13          concluded at 7:17 p.m.)

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24