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Work from home may be larger part of new normal, Hochul says

When the coronavirus pandemic ends and normalcy returns, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul believes businesses may take a different approach to the work place.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“This is an opportunity for businesses, when they re-think their one-year, five-year and 10-year plans, to maybe provide more flexibility for employees,” Hochul said on Tuesday afternoon during a webinar sponsored by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

A significant number of employees are now working from home, meaning businesses are able to gauge efficiency and productivity. Some firms may decide the home office is a viable option for part of the workforce. That in turn would create a savings on lease costs as space needs decline.

The work-from-home option, especially with a flexible schedule, would be especially helpful for mothers who are balancing their vocation with raising a family, she said.

“I think smart businesses are evaluating what the new normal looks and feels like,” Hochul said.

Hochul answered questions from chamber members on a variety of topics related to New York on Pause, including a revamped online and telephone system for unemployment benefits that state officials believe can now handle the avalanche of new applicants.

“Our (old) system was based on 40-year-old technologies,” she said. “It was fine for 50,000 calls a week, but now we have upwards of 10 million.”

The $2.3 trillion Phase 3 emergency bill passed by Congress in late March addressed a host of economic issues, including forgivable loans to small businesses. There weren’t provisions for entities like the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, however.

That’s why Hochul said the next legislation must provide relief for states, which have seen a drastic decline in sales tax and income tax revenue. She said federal relief will allow New York to allocate money to organizations left out of the Phase 3 legislation.

“Normalcy will only return when we see organizations like the RPO performing again,” she said.

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