More than 2 million Americans across 18 Republican-led states are going to be cut off from enhanced federal unemployment benefits that have prevented millions of Americans from living in poverty in the coming weeks.
Their governors say these benefits, which were set to expire in September, are overly generous and are contributing to the mounting complaints they hear from employers who cannot fill job vacancies.”
“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled,” Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican from Mississippi, tweeted this week.
‘Time is what jobless workers need as the economy revs back up.’
— Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning think-tank
Reeves and the other governors point to the U.S. adding some 266,000 jobs — far below the 1 million jobs economists were forecasting in April. Meanwhile, there are more than 8 million unfilled positions in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
The Republican governors across the 18 states are prematurely ending federal benefits which include the extra $300 for all jobless Americans.
“Let’s be clear. There is not a shortage of willing workers in America,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate and Independent senator from Vermont, said in a statement.
“There is a shortage of employers willing to pay workers a living wage with decent benefits. If employers truly want to expand their workforce, there is a simple solution: raise wages and provide decent benefits,” he added.
Some labor experts are skeptical that ending federal unemployment benefit programs will spark an outpouring of job applications for two main reasons — they still need to care for a child or elderly person and/or they’re afraid of getting coronavirus on the job.
Here is a list of those states that are ending the benefits, and when:
How much money is at stake?
The jobless workers in question could lose approximately $230 per week in Pandemic Assistance Unemployment (PUA) benefits, which enabled gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers to collect unemployment benefits they would otherwise be ineligible for, and the $300 add-on benefit.
That’s according to calculations the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration provided MarketWatch based on the national average weekly benefit amount during the first quarter of 2021
With the exception of Arizona, Alaska, Ohio, most states are ending the PUA program. More than 7 million Americans received PUA benefits as of April 24, according to the DOL.
‘Let’s be clear. There is not a shortage of willing workers in America.’
— Sen. Bernie Sanders
On top of this, most governors are also ending federal programs that enabled people to collect unemployment who have already exhausted their state benefits. and one that allowed people with multiple sources of income — including self-employed workers — to collect an additional $100 a week.
People who relied on the extended benefits program will lose $606 a week including the $300 add-on benefit if their state terminated it, DOL calculations based on the national average weekly benefit amount during the first quarter of 2021 indicate.
Some states including Arizona, Montana and Ohio are offering return-to-work bonuses as high as $2,000 to further incentivize workers to get reemployed and could presumably be applied towards child-care costs.
In addition to a bonus, Arizona is providing funds to cover three month’s worth of child-care costs to individuals who return to work and earn less than $25 an hour at their new job.
Cutting workers off from federal unemployment benefits is “a tragedy,” said Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning think-tank.
“Time is what jobless workers need as the economy revs back up, but it’s exactly what these 18 governors are now taking away from them by cutting off pandemic benefits,” Stettner said.