Nearly 2 million Americans will lose additional unemployment benefits in 16 states
Brian Kemp, Georgia Governor.
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nearly 2 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits prematurely as a result of states’ decision to end federal aid to workers.
As of Thursday, at least 16 states, all led by Republican governors, had announced that they would end their participation in pandemic-era unemployment programs.
As a result, workers will no longer receive a weekly allowance of $ 300. In most areas, those who are not eligible for government benefits – such as the long-term unemployed, self-employed, and gig workers – lose aid entirely.
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Some states cut the benefits as early as June 12, others not until July 10 – two months before they officially expire. The American rescue plan offers aid until September 6th.
The governors’ withdrawal will affect 895,000 workers in a dozen states, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Century Foundation, a left-wing think tank.
The states include Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
According to the report, they will forego $ 4.7 billion in cumulative assistance.
The governors of Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and South Dakota, who were not included in the analysis, also announced that they would be leaving the federal programs. Their withdrawal would hit about 1.1 million more people, according to a CNBC analysis of Labor Department data released Thursday.
(Gig workers and the long-term unemployed would not lose their benefits entirely in Arizona; they would only lose the $ 300 bonus, according to a state employment officer.)
The federal programs in question have been in force since the CARES law was passed in March 2020. Montana was the first state to unsubscribe from federal aid on May 4.
“It’s absolutely a ripple effect,” said Andrew Stettner, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, of the state’s actions. “It is a very drastic step to withdraw from this type of program.”
State officials said they were ending early due to labor shortages in their respective states.
They claim that increased unemployment benefits result in workers staying at home instead of returning to work and companies struggling to fill vacancies.
It’s a similar argument that Republican lawmakers made last year when they resisted Democrats’ desire to extend a $ 600-a-week state boost to state benefits.
The US created 266,000 jobs in April, down from the 1 million expected. Job vacancies also hit a record high in March, according to the Labor Department reported this week.
“Every small business owner and the workers who are currently working need more people,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said Thursday. “It affects our productivity not just in Georgia, but across the country.”
Critics say that improved performance does not increase the shortage of available labor. Pandemic-era factors such as irregular school openings, childcare obligations, an ongoing threat from viruses, and previously relatively low vaccinations among working-age Americans have put people off the shelf, they said.
Rejecting federal funding for the unemployed also removes funds that might otherwise be pumped into the economy, potentially diluting demand and need for additional labor.
It may be unrealistic to expect Americans to take jobs at the rate at which companies post them, some economists say.
“Companies are a little ahead of their optimism when it comes to labor market conditions,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, a job and recruiting site.
Labor supply usually reacts more slowly than demand, Zhao said. This also applies to other economic sectors, as the US recently demonstrated with its semiconductor and wood shortages, he said.
Montana and Arizona offer return to work awards for those who find and perform full-time positions.
In the opinion of the employee representatives, premature termination of benefits would also have disproportionate effects on minorities.
For example, 50% of the unemployed in South Carolina are black, as are 54% and 66% in Alabama and Mississippi – about three times the national average of 18%, according to the Century Foundation.
Some experts believe the U.S. Department of Labor may be able to prevent loss of benefits for the self-employed, gig workers, and others receiving help from the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.
The U.S. Department of Labor has the legal authority and obligation to keep this aid going based on specific wordings in the CARES Act that established the program, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., And the National Employment Law Project, which issued it posted letters this week to Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
The Ministry of Labor is currently examining the letters.