Republican governors across the nation are moving to suspend the federal government’s enhanced unemployment benefits, which provide an additional $300 per week to unemployment claimants. According to the governors, the enhanced benefit disincentivizes workers from returning to the labor force, The Daily Wire noted.
The changes come after a disastrous jobs report was released earlier this month showing just 266,000 jobs were added to the economy in April, compared to the one million that were projected.
“The black unemployment rate increased, 18,000 manufacturing jobs were lost, no construction jobs were added, unemployment for Americans without any college education increased, and women had a net loss in jobs,” The Daily Wire indicated following the report’s release. “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said that nearly 10 million Americans, 9.8 million to be exact, remained unemployed in Biden’s economy.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on legislators to end the enhanced unemployment benefits, saying it disincentivizes workers.
“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market. We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our workforce issues and the very real threat unfilled positions poses to our economic recovery from the pandemic,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said in a statement. “One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit. Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working.”
The enhanced unemployment benefits were originally passed in March 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. According to USA Today, the enhanced unemployment benefits, which were once again extended as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, remain in place until September 6, unless states opt out of the programs.
Twenty-one states are now opting out of the following enhanced unemployment benefits:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers, and part-time workers.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted.
All of the states, with the exception of Idaho and South Dakota, are also opting out of the fourth unemployment benefit program:
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings.
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Friday announced that Alaska will opt out of FPUC benefits beginning June 12.
“We’re hearing from employers, we’re hearing from the business community, I’ve been reading a lot of the articles that you all have been writing, and there is a worker shortage,” Patsy Wescott, Director of the Division of Employment and Training Services, told the Anchorage Daily News.
Extended state benefits will continue through September 6, the agency said in a press release. The benefits are available to eligible unemployment insurance recipients and those who are self-employed.
On Thursday, Governor Doug Ducey announced Arizona will opt out of enhanced unemployment benefits beginning July 10.
“Although more people are ready to work today in Arizona than before the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to fill vital positions,” Ducey said in a video address. “We cannot let unemployment benefits be a barrier to getting people back to work.”
The state is offering a return-to-work incentive. Arizonans who return to the workforce full-time will receive a one-time $2,000 bonus. Those who return on a part-time basis will receive a one-time $1,000 bonus. In order to qualify, a person must earn less than $52,000 per year and have completed at least 10 weeks on the job before the bonus is paid.
The state is also setting aside $7.5 million for community scholarships for those who are currently unemployed and providing an additional $6 million in GED test prep and exam fees for those collecting unemployment.
The state will also pay three months of child care assistance for those returning to the workforce. In order to qualify, a person must earn less than $52,000 per year.
Last week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said her state will end enhanced federal unemployment benefits beginning June 19. According to Ivey, the extended unemployment benefits are “contributing to a labor shortage that is compromising the continuation of our economic recovery.”
“Alabama has an unemployment rate of 3.8%, the lowest in the Southeast, and significantly lower than the national unemployment rate. Our Department of Labor is reporting that there are more available jobs now than prior to the pandemic. Jobs are out there,” Governor Ivey said in a press release. “We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions. Vaccinations are available for all adults. Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it’s time to get back to work.”
In order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits, the Alabama Department of Labor has reinstated a pre-pandemic requirement, where all claimants must search for work while collecting benefits.
Two weeks ago, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Arkansas would end all enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 26, the Arkansas Times reported. The state ended the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs on March 13, a memo from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services indicated.
“The programs were implemented to assist the unemployed during the pandemic when businesses were laying off employees and jobs were scarce,” Governor Hutchinson said in a statement. “As we emerge from COVID-19, retail and service companies, restaurants, and industry are attempting to return to prepandemic unemployment levels, but employees are as scarce today as jobs were a year ago. The $300 federal supplement helped thousands of Arkansans make it through this tough time, so it served a good purpose. Now we need Arkansans back on the job so that we can get our economy back to full speed.”
Arkansas’ unemployment benefits are traditionally capped at 16 weeks. The CARES Act extended those benefits to 29 weeks, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
Governor Brian Kemp announced last week that Georgia would opt out of the federal programs beginning June 26.
“During truly unprecedented times, hardworking Georgians have stayed resilient and businesses of all sizes have quickly adapted to an unpredictable environment,” Kemp said in a statement. “Even in the middle of a global pandemic, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong – including an unemployment rate below the national average. To build on our momentum, accelerate a full economic recovery, and get more Georgians back to work in good-paying jobs, our state will end its participation in the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs, effective June 26th. As we emerge from this pandemic, Georgians deserve to get back to normal – and today’s announced economic recovery plan will help more employees and businesses across our state do so.”
Governor Brad Little said last week that Idaho will end enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 19.
“Employers are telling me one of the big reasons they cannot recruit and retain some workers is because those employees are receiving more on unemployment than they would while working. We see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere. Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation, and we are a top 10 state for best employment, but there is more we can do. It’s time to get back to work,” Little said in a press release “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to a job.”
According to the governor’s office, Idaho was one of only three states which opted not to participate in the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program, where states provide claimants with an additional $100 per week on top of the $300 weekly payment from the federal government.
In April, Idaho reinstated a pre-COVID unemployment insurance requirement where claimants must provide proof they are searching for full-time employment.
Governor Eric Holcomb announced on Tuesday that Indiana would be opting out of enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 19.
“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now. I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow,” Holcomb said in a statement. “We have a myriad of work options in every region of our state with many more coming online every week.”
The state is also reimplementing work-search requirements.
At the height of the pandemic, the Hoosier State had an unemployment rate over 17%. Since the state began reopening, that number has dropped to 3.9%.
Last week, Governor Kim Reynolds announced Iowa would opt out of the federal programs beginning June 11.
“Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs initially provided displaced Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” Reynolds said in a statement, according to The Gazette. “But now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work.”
While Democrats and union representatives disagreed with the decision, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) said the move was necessary.
“Iowa had a workforce shortage prior to the pandemic,” Iowa ABI President Mike Ralston told The Gazette in a statement. “The continued extended benefits have only exacerbated the challenge and slowed our recovery.”
According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa traditionally caps unemployment benefits at 26 weeks. Under the CARES Act, that benefit extended to 39 weeks.
Governor Mike Parson announced last week that Missouri would end enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 12.
“Many business owners and employers across the state are struggling, not because of COVID-19 but because they can’t find the people to fill the jobs,” Parson said, according to KSDK-TV.
“Continuing these programs only worsens the workforce issues we’re currently facing. It’s time that we end these programs that have incentivized people to stay out of the workforce,” Parson added, according to a report from KY 3.
In addition to doing away with the enhanced unemployment benefits, Missouri is also doing away with “100 Percent Reimbursement of Short-Time Compensation Benefit Costs Paid Under State Law,” KSDK-TV indicated. The Show-Me State is also reinstating the pre-COVID work search requirement.
Last week, Governor Tate Reeves announced Mississippi would be opting out of the federal unemployment programs beginning June 12.
Reeves explained his decision in a social media post, saying the suspension of enhanced unemployment benefits is necessary for a”full economic recovery” to take place.
The purpose of unemployment benefits is to temporarily assist Mississippians who are unemployed through no fault of their own. After many conversations over the last several weeks with Mississippi small business owners and their employees, it has become clear that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other like programs passed by the Congress may have been necessary in May of last year but are no longer so in May of this year.
Therefore, I have informed the Department of Employment Security to direct the Biden Administration that Mississippi will be opting out of the additional federal unemployment benefits as early as federal law allows – June 12, 2021. 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. I have also directed MDES [Mississippi Department of Employment Security] to prioritize pre-pandemic enforcement of all eligibility requirements for any individual to receive unemployment benefits under state law. Mississippi is open for business!
According to Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn (R), the state is failing to enforce the work search requirement that is currently in place. That, in combination with the enhanced unemployment benefits, is having a negative impact on small businesses, Gunn said.
“I and other House members are continually being contacted by increasingly desperate small businesspeople who inform us their businesses are at risk,” Gunn wrote in a letter to Governor Reeves, according to Mississippi Today. “They report that they cannot get employees to return to work because they can earn more from combined federal and state unemployment benefits than their normal wages.”
“I have also directed MDES to prioritize pre-pandemic enforcement of all eligibility requirements for any individual to receive unemployment benefits under state law,” Gunn wrote. “Mississippi is open for business!”
Governor Greg Gianforte announced earlier this month that Montana would end enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 27.
“Incentives matter and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” Gianforte said in a statement. “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce. Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”
In addition to opting out of the benefits, the governor is offering a “Return-to-Work Bonus,” that would provide a one-time $1,200 cash payment for anyone returning to the workforce as of May 4. Montana’s pre-COVID work search requirement will also go into effect at that time.
According to Montana Budget & Policy Center, the state’s unemployment benefits are traditionally capped at 28 weeks. Under the CARES Act, that cap was upped to 39 weeks.
Last week, Governor Doug Burgum announced that North Dakota would opt out of the federal unemployment programs beginning June 19.
“These federal unemployment programs were meant to supplement state benefits and provide short-term relief for displaced and vulnerable workers, and these programs have accomplished their goals but are now counterproductive,” Burgum said in a statement. “Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire.”
Last week, Governor Mike DeWine announced Ohio would opt out of enhanced federal benefits beginning June 26.
“In some cases, certainly discouraging people from going back at this point in time. The assistance was always, always intended to be temporary,” DeWine said, according to a report from Statehouse News Bureau.
According to The Business Journal, Ohio has continually seen a drop in unemployment claims week after week. The week of May 1 was the eighth straight week that unemployment claims in the state dropped.
Governor Kevin Stitt on Tuesday announced that Oklahoma would opt out of enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 26.
“This is the right move for Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a statement. “Since our state has been open for business since last June, the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma businesses today is not reopening, it’s finding employees. For Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state, workforce participation must be at a top level and I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce.”
In addition, the state government is offering a $1,200 return-to-work incentive for the first 20,000 Oklahomans who return to the workforce.
Two weeks ago, Governor Henry McMaster announced that South Carolina would end enhanced unemployment benefits beginning June 30.
“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits. In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker’s previous pay checks,” McMaster said in a statement. “What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return to the workplace.”
According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, the state’s unemployment benefits are traditionally capped at 20 weeks. The CARES Act extended those benefits to 33 weeks.
The state’s unemployment rate is around 3%, the Argus Leader reported.
Last week, Governor Kristi Noem announced that South Dakota would opt out of the federal programs beginning June 26.
“Businesses across the state continue to say they would grow and expand, if it wasn’t for the lack of workers. Help wanted signs line our streets,” state Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman said, according to the Brookings Register. “South Dakota is, and has been, ‘Open for Business.’ Ending these programs is a necessary step towards recovery, growth, and getting people back to work.”
Governor Bill Lee announced last week that Tennessee would be opting out of federal programs beginning July 3.
“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the state’s traditional unemployment benefits are capped at 26 weeks. Under the CARES Act, those benefits were extended to 38 weeks.
Governor Greg Abbott on Monday announced Texas would be opting out of the federal programs beginning June 26.
“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said in a statement. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”
Part of the motivation to roll back the enhanced benefits is an estimate from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that indicates roughly 18% of all claims during the pandemic — 800,000 claims, totaling $10.4 billion — have been fraudulent.
Governor Spencer Cox announced last week that Utah would be opting out of enhanced federal benefits beginning June 26.
“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Cox said in a statement. “I believe in the value of work. With the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.9% and plenty of good paying jobs available today, it makes sense to transition away from these extra benefits that were never intended to be permanent. The market should not be competing with government for workers.”
Last week, Governor Jim Justice announced that West Virginia would opt out of the federal programs beginning June 19.
“Today I’m also announcing I’m signing an executive order to modify our face recovering requirement,” the governor said during a press conference, according to WCHS-TV. “We will immediately follow the CDC guidance for all those fully vaccinated. Our face covering requirement no longer applies to you if you have been fully vaccinated.”
State officials are contemplating a $500 bonus for those who return to work but that benefit could be contingent on businesses. Justice indicated he wants businesses to match the state’s $500 bonus incentive, WTRF-TV reported.
Last week, Governor Mark Gordon announced that Wyoming would be opting out of the federal programs beginning June 19. According to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, the state ended the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program in mid-March.
“Wyoming needs workers, our businesses are raring to go,” Gordon said in a statement. “I recognize the challenges facing Wyoming employers, and I believe it’s critical for us to do what we can to encourage more hiring. Federal unemployment programs have provided short-term relief for displaced and vulnerable workers at a tough time, but are now hindering the pace of our recovery. People want to work, and work is available. Incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.”
The state’s length of unemployment benefits will also drop from 53 weeks, which was put in place under the CARES Act, to the standard 26 weeks, KTVQ-TV reported.
Beth Baumann is a Political Reporter and Editor at The Daily Wire. Follow her on Twitter @eb454.