January 18, 2020

Unemployment Benefits Are Cut for Some New Yorkers

Starting this week, benefits for more than 140,000 New York State residents will be cut by almost 11 percent as a result of the budget stalemate in Washington. New York is one of the first states to carry out the cuts, which are a result of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, which mandated an $85 billion across-the-board reduction in spending on military and domestic programs.

For Stephanie Cozart, a stage actress in Manhattan, that means a cut to $361 per week from the $405 she had been receiving since last fall. If she does not find work by the end of September, when the cuts expire, the loss would amount to $1,100.

“It just seems really mean and really dumb, given that everyone knows that unemployment benefits stimulate the economy,” said Ms. Cozart, who is married and has a 7-month-old daughter. “I don’t save my unemployment benefits. I spend them on diapers and baby food and so forth.”

As part of the cutbacks, every state was ordered to reduce the benefits paid to people who have exhausted their 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits and have begun collecting what are known as emergency unemployment benefits. New York is one of 14 states that was ready by early April to reduce the payments, according to Jason Kuruvilla, a spokesman for the federal Labor Department. The cuts will be proportionally larger in states that take longer to start making them.

Though the budget cuts were uniform, the effect on the unemployed is not. People collecting regular benefits are unaffected. And those collecting emergency benefits in states like Connecticut that have been slower to implement the cuts may find work before losing any benefits. Connecticut expects to make the cut in mid-June, when it will amount to about 19 percent of a weekly payment, or about $112 out of that state’s maximum benefit of $591. In New Jersey, the payments start shrinking this week by as much as $66.

“They’re inequitable,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, which has lobbied to preserve the additional benefits that lawmakers in Washington approved when unemployment soared after the financial crisis.

A study released this month by his group reported that five million Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more and that the average duration of unemployment nationwide is now 37 weeks.

In New York, as in many other states, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits stretched to 99 weeks at the depths of the recession. But as the state’s unemployment rate has declined, so has the availability of benefits.

At the end of last year, New York stopped offering a sort of last-resort program known as extended benefits that lasted for up to 20 weeks. Now, the longest an unemployed New Yorker can collect benefits for is 79 weeks.

But some who only recently started collecting emergency benefits, like Ms. Cozart, may only collect them for a maximum of 37 weeks. For most of that period, the benefits would be reduced by the automatic cuts.

The $44 a week that Ms. Cozart will lose may not sound onerous in New York City, where it would barely cover one prix fixe dinner during Restaurant Week. But advocates for the unemployed point out that they had to lobby for years in Albany to obtain the $5 increase in weekly unemployment benefits that New Yorkers are scheduled to receive next year.

That increase, the first since 2000, will raise the maximum weekly benefit in the state to $410. But it still will be at least $180 lower than the maximum benefit in Connecticut or New Jersey.

Ms. Cozart’s last role was as Aunt Gert in an Off Broadway revival of “Lost in Yonkers,” and she had hoped to find another acting job. But with a baby to feed and clothe and a husband whose job does not provide health insurance, she said she had begun considering office jobs.

“I would much rather have a job that paid well and provided health benefits than be sort of scrimping and saving,” said Ms. Cozart, 42. Referring to the cut in her weekly benefits, she said: “$40 a week adds up. It just made me see red, made me really angry.”

For Patricia Torres, 29, the cut will just be the latest indignity that has followed the loss of her job selling wireless phone service in Downtown Brooklyn in June. Ms. Torres, who said she earned $60,000 a year before she was dismissed, said she had to move out of a Manhattan apartment she shared with a roommate and back in with her grandmother and ailing grandfather.

She said she ran through her savings in the first few months of unemployment and has defaulted on the student loans she took out to study fashion design and marketing. She has no health insurance because the cost to continue coverage provided by her former employer was $800 a month.

Without insurance, she said, she could no longer afford to see her regular doctors or buy all the medicines they have prescribed. Instead, she visits a city-financed clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, she said.

Most of the jobs she finds in her searches offer low pay and meager benefits, if any, she said.

“My résumé is pretty strong, which is why I get the interviews,” Ms. Torres said. “But they don’t want to pay me anything. They want me to work for minimum wage, which is less than I get from unemployment” — though by a narrower margin than before this week.

“I’ve worked every single day since I was 17 years old,” she said. “For the first time, I need help and they’re taking it away.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/nyregion/unemployment-benefits-are-cut-for-some-new-yorkers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Small-Business Guide: When Couples Divorce but Still Run the Business Together

The two met in the late ’80s, in law school, and the relationship blossomed in the early ’90s at the firm — Ventura, Ribeiro Smith — where Mr. Ribeiro was essentially the chief executive. They were married in 1998, and soon after, Ms. Calistro took a more active role in running the company’s operations. Together, they built the business into what is now a 50-person operation with an emphasis on civil litigation.

But while the business grew, their home life started falling apart. Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Calistro divorced in 2006, and suddenly, the former spouses had to make a choice: Do they continue running the business together or should one of them leave? (Ms. Calistro was not an equity partner at the time of the divorce; she is now.)

“People said, including both of our lawyers, that we shouldn’t work together,” Mr. Ribeiro said. “But we talked in an office for two hours and decided we should try to make our business relationship work.”

Given a 2007 Census Bureau estimate that about 3.7 million businesses are owned by a husband and a wife. Given the high rate of divorce, this situation is more common than many realize. This small-business guide, based on the experiences of owners like Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Calistro, offers suggestions on making the best of a difficult situation.

“We created the business,” Mr. Ribeiro said, “we created the structure, and we had a team that counted on us.” Six years after signing the divorce papers, the business partners say they are working together happily and the firm is in good shape.

RESPECT IS CRUCIAL When Stephanie Blackwell and her husband of 12 years divorced in 1991 — “we just fell out of love,” she said — she wanted out of the business they had started together, growing alfalfa sprouts. He was angry, she said, and she could not deal with it. One day she drove off, but he chased her and told her to come back to work. “There was so much anger between the two of us,” she said, “but I still cared for him. I just didn’t want to be married.”

While it was tough to continue running the company with her husband, she stuck it out. They had four children together, she could not afford to leave her job, and she still respected him.

In 1998, she left to start another business, Aurora Products, which turned into a $45 million company that packages and sells natural and organic snacks. Initially, her former husband took full control of the alfalfa business but it closed 12 years later. He now works for her, overseeing construction of a new plant.

Ivan Lansberg, co-founder and senior partner at Lansberg Gersick Associates, a consulting firm in New Haven that advises family businesses, also emphasizes the importance of respect. Unfortunately, he said, many relationships become so damaged — especially if one person has cheated — that trust and respect are not possible.

To Mr. Lansberg, it all depends on open communication, predictability (people have to do what they say they are going to do), and consistency (they have to follow through even on bad days). But there also has to be some compassion. “You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the other person and empathize with what they are going through,” he said.

GET HELP Unlike most former spouses, those who own a business together must continue to see each other regularly even after the divorce papers are signed. That can make it harder to heal, which may be a good reason to seek professional help — even if it is too late to save the marriage.

Terri Allen still cared for her husband when the two separated in 2010 — they are not yet divorced — but there was so much anger that they could barely communicate. That made it difficult to continue running their accounting firm, which is based in Toronto.

The couple decided to hire a therapist to help them sort through their problems so they could continue working with each other. They found someone who specializes in Imago Relationship Therapy, a type of therapy that helps people communicate. “It helped us learn how to talk to each other in a calm and rational way,” Ms. Allen said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/business/smallbusiness/when-couples-divorce-but-still-run-the-business-together.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Shortcuts: At Babyplays.com, Toys for Rent

IF you want to avoid spending a lot of money this year on things that won’t last, like Christmas trees and toys, you don’t have to buy. You can now rent them, enjoying the items in your house but sending them back when you don’t want them anymore.

Sounds like heaven to me.

I first started thinking about this when I heard about a company that rented out toys and collected them for a nominal fee after your child lost interest. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of buying a selection of expensive playthings for our children, only to see them gather dust in a corner in a few weeks — or months, if we’re lucky.

Babyplays.com, which has been around since 2007, offers a single toy for $2.99 to $8.99 plus shipping, or you can buy a $19.99 membership that gives you four toys every other month, said Stephanie Weber, owner of the company. Customers can also pay $32.99 and receive four toys a month. The site caters to children from infancy to about 4 years old. “After that, they usually become more attached to their toys, like action figures or Legos,” she said.

For parents worried about the used toys’ cleanliness, but Ms. Weber said that all items without electronics went through a commercial dishwasher and others were thoroughly sanitized.

But what if your child breaks one? Give Babyplays a call and another is sent free.

“We get it,” she said. “We’re all moms here. It’s only happened a handful of times.”

Interestingly, a lot of people ask for toys to be shipped directly to a hotel or wherever they are staying on vacation. The toys are then picked up at the end of the holiday, which means parents don’t end up lugging them home in the car or on an airplane. You can even rent to own, buying the toys for 30 to 50 percent off the retail cost, depending on how long that toy has been in circulation.

Renting toys may seem strange, but you can also now rent designer-label handbags as well as some truly unexpected items.

Say you want to rent a Christmas tree. If you live in Southern California, you can contact Scott Martin, who started livingchristmas.com in 2008.

The trees, which run about $145 and up for a seven- to eight-foot tree, plus a delivery and setup fee ranging from $30 to $60, aren’t necessarily cheaper than buying, but the appeal is that you’re renting a live tree rather than buying a dying one, Mr. Martin said.

He started with about 70 customers and is now up to around 1,000.

The potted trees are dropped off and reclaimed after Christmas, then moved to a six-acre industrial site that belongs to the Shell Oil Company in Carson, Calif. About 90 to 95 percent of the slow-growing trees, but not all of them, can serve as Christmas trees again the following year. “To be a Christmas tree, you have to be perfect,” Mr. Martin said. “Otherwise you’re just a pine tree.” Families can even order the same tree year after year to see how it has grown.

Need some tools to put together some complex toys you bought? No need to run out and purchase your own. In fact, you may not even have to pay anything. Tool-lending libraries are becoming increasingly popular around the country. To see if one is in your area, check out localtools.org/find/, the newly created Web site.

Berkeley Public Library has been lending tools for 31 years and offers everything from screwdrivers to table saws to plumbing wrenches.

“You can unstop a sink or build a deck with our tools,” said Adam Broner, a lending specialist who has been working at the Berkeley library for about 20 years.

Power tools can be checked out for three days, while smaller tools are available for a week.

The late fees are heftier than those for books — they can be as high as $15 a day — and with the $20,000 a year the library receives from those fines, it replaces worn-out items, Mr. Broner said.

“About 2,000 to 3,000 tools are checked out a month,” he said.

If there is no tool library near you, call a local tool rental company or home improvement store in your area — but be prepared to pay.

Enough about toys and tools.

If you’re a woman looking for something for yourself, say, for a party, why not rent a designer handbag?

E-mail: shortcuts@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b0092183241136ae0e59968f727bc277