House GOP blames worker shortage on unemployment benefits that expired weeks ago

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The temporary federal benefits that Republicans claim are 'incentivizing' Americans to stay home ended in early September.

House Republicans are still blaming the number of unfilled jobs on President Joe Biden's emergency unemployment benefits — even though the relief payments ended more than a month ago.

On Tuesday, the GOP minority on the House Small Business Committee tweeted an analysis by the National Federation for Independent Business, a right-wing lobbying group, noting that small businesses are still struggling to fill job openings.

"NEW: A record 51% of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in September," the Republican representatives wrote. "Biden has paid people to stay home for months, creating a labor crisis. Make no mistake, reckless Democrat [sic] spending policies are crushing Main Street USA."

Other House Republicans have also blamed the September hiring pace on the administration giving too much aid to those out of work due to the pandemic.

"Between vaccine mandates & incentivizing millions of Americans to stay home, President Biden's policies are forcing Kansans out of work and killing our economy," wrote Kansas Rep. Jake LaTurner on Friday, after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report indicating the country added 194,000 jobs last month.

"According to the @BLS_gov there are almost 11 MILLION jobs open in the U.S.," said Texas Rep. Michael Burgess. "Maybe it is time for Congress to stop paying people to stay at home?"

There's one problem with that argument: The programs in question, which Republicans have blamed for "incentivizing" Americans to stay home, no longer exist.

Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan gave states the option of offering a temporary $300-a-week federal supplement to their unemployment benefits and of extending the unemployment insurance coverage period.

Republicans decried the move, insisting it would encourage people not to work, and several GOP-controlled states opted to end the $1,200 monthly bonuses early.

Nationally, the programs all expired at the beginning of September.

There is little evidence that the benefits were actually a significant factor in people remaining out of the workforce. Multiple analyses found that states that opted to cut the safety net program early saw no statistical boost in employment over states that did not.

The benefits did, however, keep an estimated 5.5 million Americans out of poverty, according to Census Bureau data.

According to the September data, nearly 4 million more people have jobs now than when Biden took office in January, and the unemployment rate has dropped from 6.3% to 4.8%, making up for the net 3 million jobs lost under former President Donald Trump.

Economists also say enactment of Biden's economic agenda could further spur job growth. A September report by the progressive Economic Policy Institute predicted that enactment of the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better jobs plan would "provide fiscal support for more than 4 million jobs per year, on average, over the course of the 10-year budgeting window, through direct spending and increased indirect demand in related industries."

The Build Back Better package — which congressional Republicans unanimously oppose — would also expand access to affordable child care and paid leave, enabling many parents to return to the workforce.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.