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Gov. Cuomo Seeks Fed Unemployment Help for 'Gig Economy' Workers

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

The Federal Reserve defines "gig workers" very broadly - from babysitters to Uber drivers. Under this definition, there may be as many as 75 million of these employees across the nation.

A Center for NYC Affairs report estimated there are some 150,000 app-based workers, or about 1.6 percent of the state's overall workforce and about 17.5 percent of the 850,000 low-paid independent contractors statewide.

Many of these workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits at the state level.

As such, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked the federal government to provide protections for these workers. In a statement provided to POLITICO, a spokesman for the governor said:

"While we continue to pursue long-term statewide reforms that will ensure all gig-economy workers receive the protections they deserve while maintaining the job flexibility they enjoy, it is clear the coronavirus epidemic will have a real impact on these New Yorkers — and they deserve protections now."

The state’s formal request for disaster unemployment assistance was submitted to the White House March 16. If approved, it would benefit independent contractors, self-employed New Yorkers, gig-economy workers and farmers, among others, according to the governor's office.

The request remains pending.

Employers who define their workers as independent contractors don’t pay into the state’s unemployment insurance fund, so these New Yorkers are generally ineligible for unemployment benefits that max out at $504 a week for traditional workers.

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