Democratic state lawmakers in a letter on Monday urged Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration to repay the $8.1 billion owed to the federal Unemployment Trust Fund before a major increase in tax costs hit New York businesses later this year.

The letter, signed by 22 members of the state Assembly who represent suburban and upstate districts and released by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner's office, comes as New York largely remains an outlier among the states for the outstanding debt created by the economic crisis during the early months of the COVID pandemic.

"Making payments against the outstanding debt is the responsible thing to do; allowing the debt to grow through non-payment will endanger the State’s ongoing economic recovery," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We urge you to take immediate action to repay the loan."

Lawmakers pointed to the cash coming to New York from mobile sports betting, as well as the surging sales tax revenue, as potential sources to help pay down the debt. Paying down the debt to avoid a looming tax hike for employers should be a priority, the lawmakers wrote.

The letter is the latest effort to raise alarms over the outstanding cost of unemployment insurance debt racked up by New York during the pandemic. A report released in June by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office found the size of New York's outstanding debt is second only to California, and is among only a handful of states yet to resolve the issue.

Business organizations, whose members are already struggling with higher fuel prices and expenses created by inflation over the last several months have urged New York officials to act before leaving Albany earlier this year.

The state's economy was hit early by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the required closure of businesses and gathering spaces led to a record number of unemployment claims. As a result, New York borrowed from the federal government in May 2020.

If interest is not paid by a Nov. 10 deadline, those interest costs will raise, in effect leading to an increase on the federal portion of employers' tax bills. DiNapoli's office has estimated this will lead to an annual federal tax increase of $21 per worker.

"We stand in agreement with other New York leaders who favor reducing or eliminating the UTF loan balance as soon as possible," the lawmakers wrote.