DICKINSON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – The local business community and state legislators are sounding the alarm that skyrocketing unemployment bills are posing a major burden to businesses across New York.

The Greater Binghamton Chamber was joined by Upstate United, State Senator Fred Akshar, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Assemblyman Joe Angelino to express their frustration with leadership in Albany over the handling of the state’s $8.1 billion debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance benefits paid out during the pandemic.

Currently, the state plans to make businesses pay off the debt through increased payments to the state’s UI fund. But the business leaders and lawmakers say the state has the funds on hand to cover the costs without raising rates.

Upstate United Executive Director Justin Wilcox said that more than 32 states have used a portion of their federal stimulus funding to pay off a portion of the UI debt.

“The state currently has the money to pay a significant portion of its UI debt,” said Wilcox “Ignoring this crisis through continued inaction is simply unacceptable. New York needs UI relief now.”

To make matters worse, the state recently sent letters to businesses that they would also be on the hook for covering the interest the debt has accrued.

That works out to $27 per employee on top of as much as $200 per worker in additional UI rates.

Rank and file lawmakers from both parties have sent letters asking state leaders, including the governor, to use state funds to pay down the debt.