ALBANY, NY (WENY)-- In the most recent legislative session in Albany, lawmakers passed legislation intending to increase penalties for wage theft--an issue some lawmakers said is significant in the state. 

It’s a huge issue, you know, we’re talking about over three billion dollars in stolen wages every year. A third of those are from what are called low wage workers, blue collar type workers—many of them don’t have a union,” said Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (D-Assembly District 39).

Last year, the state's wage theft task force recovered nearly $3 million in restitution owed to New York state workers. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul said this new law will law will act as a deterrent for employers trying to withhold wages from their workers. 

“Any employer who may be on the path but not caught, may think twice about it, because these people are owed a good wage for a day's work and in some cases, that’s being stolen from them. We’re treating it as a crime,” Hochul said. 

Assembly Member Cruz said she sponsored this legislation from a personal story of her mother who she said was robbed of wages as a domestic worker about 20 years ago. 

For many workers who live paycheck to paycheck, Cruz said stolen wages is a significant stress. 

Two, three weeks of wages doesn’t sound like much, except that when you are a single mother, you are an immigrant, you’re trying to sustain a household, it can mean the difference between buying food, not buying food, getting evicted,” she said. 

The legislation will take effect immediately.