Businesses struggling to compete with unemployment benefits

New York News

UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR) — Local businesses across the state are struggling with staff shortages and finding new people to hire.

“We have starting wages that are very competitive,” said Frank Mutolo, Director of Business Development and Commercial Operations at Genesis Disposables. “But it is nothing compared to what people are getting on unemployment. So it’s been very tough for us to find people who are ready and able to work.”

Genesis Disposables is a small company located in Herkimer County, that makes disposable hospital, maintenance, and industrial garments. Their business grew exponentially after the pandemic hit last year, and the demand for PPE increased. Like many businesses, they say they’re struggling to compete with unemployment.

“It’s challenging right now because the stimulus incentives are, in my mind, misaligned,” said John Calabrese, the owner and president of Express Employment Professionals. “They’re aligned with keeping people on the sidelines rather than incentivizing people to get back to work.”

In New York State, the amount received weekly on unemployment is based on past income. Currently, the maximum weekly benefit a person can make is $504, and if you made $52,000 or higher at your previous job, you will still receive that maximum rate. Additionally, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment program currently provides an extra $300 a week until September 5.

For a 40-work work week, a total of $804 dollars at the upper level works out to $20.10 per hour.

“Overall, it’s a positive that we have so many jobs in our area right now. And our economy is resurging, which is fantastic,” Calabrese said. “The key is that we need to get people to want to come back to work and fill these jobs.”

The rate of unemployment in the Utica-Rome area is higher than last year, in March 2020 the rate was 5.1% and in March of this year it was 7.0%, but there are also signs that things are improving.

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