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GOP lawmakers: The solution to unemployment is to kick people off of unemployment

The unemployment rate remains at 6.1% as the pandemic continues.

By Josh Israel - May 11, 2021
Barry Loudermilk

Republicans are upset that the unemployment problem has not yet been fixed since Donald Trump left office 111 days ago. So they are pushing to take away emergency unemployment benefits from the people who don’t have jobs.

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said employers added 266,000 jobs in April, a decline from the 770,000 jobs added the previous month, and the unemployment rate is 6.1%.

Rather than grapple with the reasons people are not returning to work during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Republican elected officials are pushing to punish them for being unemployed.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) announced this week that he will introduce a bill to eliminate a provision in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that provides a temporary $300-a-week federal subsidy to help people collecting unemployment insurance benefits. “Paying people to be idle when there are countless jobs available is insane, and it must change,” he argued. “This week, I will introduce a bill to end the insurance subsidy immediately. It’s time to stop the insanity and move this country towards more employment, not less.”

Loudermilk told Fox News on Monday, “We don’t need a job stimulus, other than just the federal government to get out of the way and get people back to work,” noting that one construction worker in his district said he saw “his neighbor two doors down sitting on the front porch drinking coffee” rather than working.

Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, announced on Tuesday that she was simply going to refuse the federal unemployment subsidy for her constituents.

“Our unemployment rate is at 3.7 percent, vaccines are available to anyone who wants one, and we have more jobs available than unemployed people,” she wrote. “Regular unemployment benefits will remain available, as they did before the pandemic, but it’s time for everyone who can to get back to work.”

Her fellow Republican governors in Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina have already said they are stopping the $300-a-week federal subsidy in their states; others are considering following suit. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte tweeted Friday, “No-work bonuses won’t get Americans back to work.”

Many Republican lawmakers have blamed unemployment benefits for people opting out of taking low-wage jobs that pay less than the amount of the benefits. But every single one of them voted against legislation earlier this year to raise the minimum wage to a livable $15 an hour.

And there is no evidence that giving unemployed Americans an extra $1,200 a month is the reason they are not back at work.

“It is not surprising to hear some of those who opposed unemployment benefits all along trying to cast blame on this vital assistance for workers, but the data in the report completely undercuts their claims,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, told The American Independent Foundation on Monday. “Most of the gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, the same sector that was the source of the anecdotes about supposed labor shortages.”

Analysts say that the ongoing pandemic presents an obstacle keeping many people from returning to the workforce. While the number of people vaccinated is rapidly increasing and COVID-19 case numbers are well below what they were under Trump, community spread continues to make working indoors dangerous for many.

Others lack available care for their kids during the day. Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would invest billions of dollars in caregiving infrastructure and affordable child care. Biden noted on Monday that his legislation would “provide real help for people struggling with the challenge of child care, which is making it hard for many parents who need to work — especially women — to get back to work.”

Not one congressional Republican has endorsed either proposal.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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