Friday, 23 April 2021 21:28

NY Small Business Owners Face Looming Hike on Unemployment Premiums

Written by Steve Bittenbender, The Center Square
Storefronts along Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park in Queens. Storefronts along Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park in Queens. Shutterstock.com


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New York small business owners have endured quite an ordeal over the past 13 months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about emergency regulations that either closed or restricted their operations and forced them to lay off workers.

Now, as the pandemic appears to be waning, many of them received yet another unpleasant surprise: a substantial increase in their unemployment premiums.


This came despite New York lawmakers passing legislation aimed to keep COVID-related closures from impacting a business owner’s rating, which factors into their premium amounts.


According to the New York State Restaurant Association, a western New York establishment still saw its rate increase by 133%, meaning it will pay $471 a week this year---or nearly $270 more each week. A New York City coffee shop saw its rate rise even more, meaning it will have to pay more than $9,800 each quarter, compared to about $4,100 a quarter this past year.


The unexpected increases prompted NYSRA President Melissa Fleischut to send a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, on April 19 to say the organization was “taken aback” by the increases even after Senate Bill 1197 and Assembly Bill 2001-A became law.


“It is critical the Governor and Legislature address the unfair and substantial unemployment insurance rate increase on restaurants for our industry to be successful. If not, the burden on unemployment insurance will surely grow and restaurants will close,” Fleischut said in a statement.


Restaurants aren’t alone in the suffering. NFIB New York said nearly nine in 10 of its members surveyed earlier in April reported seeing their premiums increase. For 73%, their rates rose by more than 25%. A third saw their premiums skyrocket by between 100 to 400%.


Among the more significant increases was a Capital Region clothier that saw its unemployment insurance cost go up by more than $20,000. A manufacturer in New York that employs 88 workers saw its rate increase by...

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