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Utah didn’t coordinate with other states ending $300 jobless benefit, gov’s office says



The Utah Governor’s Office said the decision to bring an early end to federal unemployment payments of $300 a week was not coordinated with other GOP governors, but came “after careful conversations with economists and Department of Workforce Services officials.”

That statement — in response to questions from 2News — followed reports Republican governors across the country seemed to move at roughly the same time to curtail the extra unemployment benefits, which have been paid on top of weekly state payments.

“I believe in the value of work,” Gov. Spencer Cox said, in announcing his hard stop for the federal payments on June 26, two-and-a-half months before they were supposed to sunset.

The market should not be competing with government for workers.“

The governor has voiced concerned the payments are a disincentive to work.

“With the extra 300 bucks a week, could you argue unemployment was too good?“ 2News asked Kevin Burt, assistant deputy director of DWS, who oversaw the Unemployment Insurance Division.

“You can certainly make the argument,“ he replied, “but you can also make the argument it made sense at the time.”

Burt said Utah’s unemployment rate pre-pandemic was about 2.7% — now it’s 2.9%. He said people without jobs before COVID neared 12,000, swelled to 130,000 at the height of the pandemic, and dropped to about 28,000 now.

“At alone we have more than 50,000 posted jobs,” Burt said.

No one is getting rich on state unemployment benefits, which will still be paid, but are often less than the $300 weekly federal amount. DWS said Utah’s average weekly pay-out is just $261, and the maximum per week is $617.

We need to look at increasing unemployment benefits,“ said Chase Thomas, of Alliance for a Better Utah. “My concern is that we are returning to an underlying system that is not working for the average American, or the average Utahn.”

The group also called on political leaders to raise the minimum wage, which is $7.25 in Utah.

On Main Street, of eight people 2News spoke with Wednesday, only one said he knew someone who is without a job.

“A roommate of my daughter’s boyfriend,“ said Walt Romney, who still felt the extra $300 a week should come to an end. “Given where we are now, and the uptick, I think it’s about time.“