Colorado business owners call on lawmakers to address unemployment relief

Colorado business owners call on state lawmakers to address unemployment relief across the state
Posted at 8:03 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 11:24:33-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado business owners and members of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce are calling on state lawmakers to address unemployment relief across the state.

News5 spoke to the local chamber and a business owner about this and how it could hurt the road to recovery after the pandemic and also hurt the bottom line for businesses.

The letter asking for unemployment insurance relief is from a coalition of more than 75 businesses and organizations, led by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. It's calling on state legislators to back the governor's proposal to use $600 million of excess funds to replenish the state's unemployment trust fund, after a large number of unemployment claims throughout the pandemic depleted that fund.

"The need came so fast for unemployment claims. Basically, the state, not just in our state, but everybody was getting money. We've already seen increases for our businesses and the Department of Labor is saying we still need to increase more. Some of our businesses are seeing the unemployment insurance has doubled already," said Terri Hayes, the president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

Now, businesses across the state worry this will increase their unemployment insurance rates, and they'll be the ones to pay for it.

"It makes your heart sink, because it's expensive already. Business owners are more than burdened right now," said Tim Peterson, the owner of Beasts & Brews.

Peterson says he gets a stack of unemployment claims every week, and some are even from people who hadn't worked at his business since months before the pandemic hit.

"It just says more about that fact that everybody is feeling this unemployment crunch, the lack of employees, and now it's delving into how were going to pay for it all," said Peterson.

While small businesses are still struggling, this could be another setback during the road to recovery for businesses across the state.

"Overall it's very difficult to find staff that are available to work," said Peterson. "It's gotten better since the federal unemployment was cut off in September, but it's still very hard."

Hayes mentioned it's not a matter of when unemployment insurance rates for local businesses will go up. It's a matter of how much. Rates could spike 72% in the next few years, which will also impact hiring new employees and employee raises.

"The last thing they need is another hit especially, especially a hit financially to them," said Hayes, who mentioned the increase is unavoidable. "We need to help our businesses and nonprofits, and not have this be another dagger that's going to hurt them moving forward."

"How much and when? Everybody is struggling and it's just another nail in the coffin for a lot of businesses, I'm sure," said Peterson. "I would say, the hope is that it gets resolved in a way that doesn't cost a local business even more."

Last week, during his State of the State Address, Governor Polis said affordability for small businesses is a big priority, and he's in Colorado Springs tonight delivering that same speech to local businesses leaders.