PORTVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — The lines at FiberCel Packaging, based in Portville, have been non-stop for the last year.
"Once the first of the year hit we got extremely busy, busier than we've ever been, because of the pandemic," Robert Schmick, General Manager of FiberCel, said.
The company creates eco-friendly packaging used to ship COVID-19 vaccines and other products. This spike in demand has come at a time when its workforce has decreased by 20%, a decrease not by design.
"(We've) seen a steady decline since the first of the year and have struggled to replace any employees," Schmick said.
As a result, FiberCel has increased wages, but even that has not helped. His employees are now working overtime on a consistent basis to make up for the lack of coworkers.
This labor shortage is something (R) State Senator George Borrello is looking to combat. He says the shortage is statewide and due to the extra $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits. He's introduced a bill requiring New York State to opt out.
"You're still going to be able to collect unemployment for almost a year," Borrello said, "You're just not going to be making so much that it disincentives you from going out and getting a job."
The $300 per week federal program is currently extended until September. Borrello is hoping his bill could signed before that. Until then, Schmick hopes more applications come through as every single employee has become that much more crucial.
"It's the difference between a line going down on a day when someone doesn't show or not going down," Schmick said.
It's very important to note that this bill has a difficult road ahead. First, the legislature will be out of session starting in June which means an emergency session would need to take place for it to be discussed. Also, according to Senator Borrello, the bill currently has no democratic backing.