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Small business owners, advocates say budget didn’t help them

While the recent increase in minimum wage from $14.20 to $15 in New York State’s 2023-24 budget garnered attention, business owners were more concerned about relief for ongoing pandemic-related costs. Many employers are already paying above the minimum wage due to worker shortages.

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However, business leaders expressed disappointment that the budget did not address COVID-19 costs, such as higher unemployment insurance premiums and mandated sick leave policies, which remain in place despite the federal government moving beyond the pandemic.

New York businesses are still required to pay for extra weeks of sick leave for employees with COVID-19. Initially, the federal government reimbursed the cost of these extra sick days, but that assistance has ended, shifting the financial burden to employers. Frank Kerbein, director of the Business Council’s Human Resources Center, highlighted the “cumulative effect” on businesses, which also face extra unemployment insurance premium surcharges due to COVID-19.

New York’s unemployment insurance fund borrowed $9.3 billion from the U.S. Treasury during the pandemic’s height, and businesses now pay a surcharge on unemployment insurance premiums to repay the debt. Kerbein noted that New York is the only state that did not use some of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan funds for COVID-19 expenses to help repay some of that money.



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