An upstate New York-focused business coalition on Friday criticized the final state budget agreement announced on Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul for not including measures meant to relieve the burden of unemployment insurance debt on the private sector. 

At issue is the soaring cost of unemployment insurance for businesses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings and businesses. 

“Despite an extraordinary effort by our organization, allies in the business community and support from numerous legislators, this year’s budget failed miserably to deliver unemployment insurance relief," said Justin Wilcox, the executive director of the group Upstate United. 

New York's unemployment rate over the last year has slowly ticked downward, though has remained high in parts of New York City as the hospitality and tourism industry continues what has been a challenging rebound. 

But the unemployment rates seen at the start of the pandemic have left businesses with a multi-billion dollar debt, which business leaders had hoped would be partially covered with federal stimulus funds.

"This is especially disappointing considering the state is sitting on billions in federal aid that it could have used to pay the $9.6 billion UI debt to Washington," Wilcox said. "This failure flies in the face of Governor Hochul’s own pledge to make New York the most business friendly state in the nation. Make no mistake – consumers across the state will ultimately bear the burden of this inaction."