Legislative Initiatives to Restore Worker Financial Health

The residents of New York City’s vibrant 30th District have suffered disproportionately both physically and financially from the COVID-19 health crisis.  

The district, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side in New York City, had an extremely high rate of coronavirus infections and a substantial number of residents there also suffered economically from being out of work.  

District 30 is represented by one of the area’s political rising stars in the New York State Senate, Senator Brian Benjamin, who serves as that body’s Senior Assistant Majority Leader. Senator Benjamin joined me to record The Source podcast, sponsored by DailyPay, to discuss what actions his office and the New York legislature have initiated to support constituents’ physical and financial health during this crisis.

He discussed not only how key payroll-related measures introduced can help employers and employees in New York and how commerce will work coming out of the forced economic shutdown, but also his responses to aid the effort to ensure that equality and justice for minorities and people of color can be achieved. 

The coronavirus created a “really tough situation” for Senator Benjamin’s constituents, he said. Not only were many physically suffering from “a lot of loss of life” and the emotional trauma that comes with that, but there has been “financial trauma” as well. His office had to pivot from being physically open to having to serve constituents in a safe manner, transferring to “a whole electronic system of how we communicated,” he said.   

Senator Benjamin’s office first worked to ensure that people were fed and helped to arrange coronavirus testing. Then he and his staff spent a lot of time dealing with people’s unemployment insurance claims. 

In the New York legislature in Albany, Senator Benjamin and his colleagues in leadership in the legislature have introduced several measures to address the physical and financial needs of state residents. Initiatives include help for small businesses to stay afloat and tenant-based relief in coordination with federal programs. “I’m talking specifically about a COVID emergency-based voucher that can help bridge us through this difficult time,” Senator Benjamin said. The government needs to step in because “we, the government, shut businesses down,” he said.

Specifically for payroll, in addition to sponsoring legislation (S 8386) that would clarify how New York employers handle tax withholding for workers that are now working from different locations than they were before, another of Senator Benjamin’s bills, S 8206, would add “clarity and transparency” for on-demand pay or early wage access, he said. “I am very concerned and want to make sure that people who need cash a little sooner [than payday], can get it in a cost-effective way,” the senator said. 

“One of the things I think that this industry is helping to do is to do that in a way where people are not having to deal with loan sharks, and not having to put themselves in real harm in order to get money sooner. I think if you’ve earned your check, or you’re going to earn your check and you’re just a week away, but your life has financial needs a little sooner than your check comes, this service, I think, is an important one. So this bill basically puts some structure around on- demand pay, and it creates a situation where people in my district and other districts can feel comfortable — particularly some folks who are underserved in the banking industry, the banking community — that they have options.”   

He is behind this effort because he knows “the industry works with employers to create a safe way for this to happen,” Senator Benjamin said.

The senator had additional comments on this community’s specific battle against both the coronavirus and racism, as well as the ever-evolving economy and workplace.

Tune-in to the full podcast the DailyPay website, or through Apple, Spotify and Google podcast channels. You can also access previous The Source by DailyPay podcasts that discuss on-demand pay, also known in the industry as early wage access, on these platforms. 

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