UTAH – Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox on Sunday defended Republicans’ push to end enhanced unemployment, saying that although some families continue to struggle amid the pandemic’s economic fallout, the benefit must be rolled back “at some point.”
Citing the state’s low unemployment rate, Cox told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that the biggest problem in Utah is finding workers for unfilled jobs, and claimed officials have found that the federal jobless benefits, including the $300 weekly boost meant to help people out of work amid the coronavirus pandemic “is a disincentive.”
“It is a terrible jobs report,” he said, referring to Friday’s report that showed the US economy added a scant 266,000 jobs in April, “but that’s what happens when we pay people not to work. There are families struggling, we want to help them out, but at some point, have to roll that back.”
Several Republican governors have announced they are planning to roll back the enhanced benefits, including the governors of Montana, South Carolina and Arkansas, with that state’s governor saying “employees are as scarce today as jobs were a year ago.”
The federal benefits not only include an extra $300 in unemployment payments, but also payments for freelancers, independent contractors, certain people affected by the virus and those who’ve run out of their regular state benefits.
Whether the beefed up benefits are keeping people from accepting job offers is a matter of debate. Economists at the University of Chicago and Yale University, among others, found that last year’s $600 supplement had little to no impact on laid-off workers’ decisions.
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President Joe Biden has said the extra benefits do not act as a disincentive for people to return to work.
Asked about the benefits on “State of the Union” Sunday, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients told Tapper that “people want to work” and said that there “are still difficult hurdles for people working, including health concerns around the pandemic, child care.”
“The American Rescue Plan was a really important piece of legislation … to help us recover and build back better,” said Zients, who served as director of the Obama White House’s National Economic Council, referring to the massive aid package that provided the existing enhanced benefits.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also defended the expanded unemployment benefits on Sunday, saying in an interview with CBS that data doesn’t show it’s the reason people are not working.
“Obviously, we are monitoring that, but at this point, there’s nothing in the data which would suggest that that’s the reason people are out of work,” Raimondo said, adding the benefit has been a “lifeline of survival” for unemployed workers during the pandemic.