Colorado Capitol Report

Chamber Members Bring Attention to Economic Impact of Increasing Unemployment Premiums

Chamber Members Bring Attention to Economic Impact of Increasing Unemployment Premiums

After the Colorado Chamber and 75+ other business groups called on lawmakers to replenish the state’s bankrupt Unemployment Insurance fund this week, Chamber members spoke about how the rate increases will impact their businesses and communities.

This issue reaches far beyond just employers; if legislators fail to address it, it will impact jobs, wages, consumer costs, and more. As Colorado strives towards economic recovery, we cannot afford to put this burden on businesses.

Chamber Board Member Mauricio Henderson was featured in the Denver Business Journal this week discussing how growing regulatory costs are making Colorado less competitive:

Mauricio Henderson — CEO of Denver business staffing-services firm Perseverance, which was one of the six individual companies to sign onto the letter — said that he wants the Legislature to do whatever it can to bring down the cost to companies who had to lay off staff when the state shut down many businesses’ operations in early 2020. Not only are companies facing higher material and labor costs, but they are having to pay higher minimum wages and will have to start paying next year into a fund to offer paid family and medical leave, and they need a break from largely government-spawned costs, he said.

“For me as a business owner, it’s making me question: Do I want to have a headquarters in Colorado?” said Henderson, whose company has gone from having 30 employees before the pandemic to 14 now. “With the cost to do business, I just think it’s very important for costs to not have to go any higher.”

Board Member Roger Bartlett explained to The Denver Post that Unemployment Insurance relief will allow him to pay his employees more:

For Roger Bartlett, president of Affordable Concrete LLC, the government funding would let him continue providing bonuses and pay increases to his employees. Bartlett took several hits during the pandemic, with a slump in production, and shortages in both material and workers.

“Small businesses are really struggling right now,” said Bartlett, who signed the Tuesday letter. He described the $600 million proposal as “a good start” to lift the strain off of his company and others.

One of the Colorado Chamber’s local partners, the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, spoke to KOAA News5 about how small businesses are being impacted by the economic toll of the pandemic:

“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.

The Colorado Chamber’s coalition has asked the General Assembly to support Governor Polis’ proposal to dedicate at least $600 million to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund this year.

WATCH: Chamber President Loren Furman Explains How Businesses Will Be Impacted By UI Increases

Colorado Chamber President & CEO Loren Furman talks to Denver7 about the significant Unemployment Insurance premium increases that will be facing Colorado employers unless state legislators act.

Key Leaders at Department of Labor & Employment Meet with Colorado Chamber Members

This week, the Colorado Chamber’s Labor & Employment Council convened and heard from key leaders at the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment on critical issues impacting businesses.  Executive Director Joe Barela provided an update to our members on the Unemployment Trust Fund deficit and ways that the Department is confronting fraud as well as the Department’s legislative priorities.  He was joined by Deputy Executive Director Cher Haavind, and Phil Spesshardt, Unemployment Insurance Division Director, who both shared details on the new IT programs being used to counter the UI fraud and the ongoing investigations of the fraudsters.

Tracy Marshall, the new Director of the Family & Medical Leave Program provided a brief update on the next steps with the Family & Medical Leave Program and rulemaking which will include an initial stakeholder process for developing exemptions for employers that create their own family and medical leave programs.  That stakeholder and rulemaking has not yet begun.

Scott Moss, Wage & Hour, Division Director, shared that the Department would provide further guidance on how employers and employees could comply with the combined paid sick leave and family and medical leave laws which is creating consternation for many employers. Colorado Chamber staff also discussed labor and employment legislation being proposed during the 2022 legislative including:

Bill #’s TBD – Workplace harassment bills

Bill #TBD – False Claims Act

Bill # TBD – Premises Liability

SB 34 – Business Identity Theft

Bill # TBD – Uniform Law Commission Restrictive Employment Agreement

No positions on bills were taken during the Council meeting since many have yet to be introduced or were just recently introduced by the Legislature.  The next meeting of the Labor & Employment Council will be February 16th.  Please RSVP to [email protected] to attend.