(The Center Square) -- Most Colorado business owners are concerned about unemployment insurance premium hikes from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.
According to the survey, 88% of respondents are concerned about future unemployment insurance premium hikes, with 54% being very concerned and 34% somewhat concerned.
The survey also found 85% of respondents said they want to see lawmakers use state or federal funds to backfill the state's unemployment coffers.
"With the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and loosening restrictions across the state, a recovery is in sight for many Colorado businesses," Colorado Chamber President Chuck Berry said in a statement. "But the legislature still must confront major policy issues to get our economy back on track. Jobs should be our top priority, and the first step in getting Coloradans back to work is to help the businesses that employ them."
A study by the Common Sense Institute, a free enterprise think tank, found that insurance premiums could rise to from 0.7% to 13.1% of an employee's wages by 2023 if the state does not address its ailing unemployment insurance tax fund.
Small business owners in New York are facing a similar plight. The New York Restaurant Association reported one business seeing its premium increase by a staggering 133%, representing increased costs of $270 per week.
To help stymie unemployment in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis introduced a new financial incentive program on Wednesday to pay Coloradans if they go back to work. The program will pay up to $1,600 to people on the unemployment roster who find work in either May or June.
According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado's unemployment rate stood at 6.1% in April. That's down 7% from its April 2020 levels, but is nearly twice as much as the state's pre-pandemic unemployment rate.
Some employers remain cynical about how unemployment in the state will impact their business, the survey indicates. 40% of survey respondents said increase unemployment insurance costs would result in higher costs to consumers, and 22.5% said it could result in cutting employee benefits.
"One of most pressing concerns facing Colorado employers is the state's unemployment system and the significant premium increases needed to replenish the fund," Berry said. "The uncertainty this poses for businesses could impede our economic recovery and should be a focus of state leaders moving forward."
The survey is the Chamber's sixth survey of its members concerning the impacts of COVID-19 on the state's business community. It was conducted between May 12 and May 14 and had responses from businesses representing 17 industries across the state.