Tuberville says it's Biden's fault people aren't taking low-wage fast food jobs


But Alabama opted out of President Joe Biden's unemployment supplement program months ago.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is seizing on news that some Chick-fil-A restaurants have closed due to understaffing to attack President Joe Biden and his COVID-19 relief plan. But the federal program he and other Republicans falsely claim has incentivized people not to work has not been operational in Alabama since June.

Fox Business reported on Sunday that at least two Alabama Chick-fil-A restaurants had closed their dining rooms due to a lack of staff. The Chick-fil-A location in Madison cited a "hiring crisis," with "far less job applicants or people not showing up for their interviews." The McCalla store blamed a "staffing crisis" fueled by "both high school and university students returning back to school and football/holiday season quickly approaching."

Tuberville tweeted on Monday that the "Biden administration continues incentivizing people to sit on the sidelines instead of encouraging them to rejoin the workforce."

A Tuberville spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story. But he appears to be referring to emergency federal unemployment insurance benefits included in Biden's American Rescue Plan, such as the $300-a-week temporary federal subsidy for those who lost their jobs.

Though there is no evidence that those benefits have had a significant impact on hiring, Republicans have decried it as "paying people to be idle" and blamed it for staffing shortages in the retail and service industries.

In May, Tuberville accused the Biden administration of "incentivizing people to sit on the sidelines instead of encouraging them to rejoin the workforce."

"Across America, businesses are no longer competing against other businesses. Now they have to compete against the government. And the government is stacking the deck against them," he charged, incorrectly claiming that the $1,200 a month payments were the proximate cause of a worker shortage.

Biden debunked these arguments in May 10 remarks, noting that "the law is clear: If you're receiving unemployment benefits and you're offered a suitable job, you can't refuse that job and just keep getting the unemployment benefits."He observed in July that he has seen "no evidence it [the $300 benefit] had any serious impact" on keeping people unemployed.

But even if Biden's programs were the reason some unemployed people opted to stay home, workers in Alabama have not been able to receive them for months.

Though the temporary subsidy was supposed to last until September, Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey announced on May 10 that the state would opt out of "all federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs" as of June 19.

"We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions," she said at the time. "Vaccinations are available for all adults. Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it's time to get back to work."

Ivey has subsequently bragged that hiring has increased in Alabama and credited that move for the hiring boom.

So why the hiring challenges for Alabama's Chick-fil-A restaurants?

A May CNBC report noted that 36% of unemployed workers had rejected job offers because the salary was too low and 35% because of concerns about COVID-19.

Alabama has no statewide minimum wage, meaning employers can pay as little as the $7.25 federal minimum hourly rate.

While Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how much these locations pay workers per hour, both Glassdoor and Indeed suggest the company pays well below the $13.77-an-hour living wage for a single adult with no children in Alabama.

And as Tuberville noted on Friday, Alabama is seeing a massive spike as the delta variant spreads across the state. "As AL's hospitals continue to see a surge in covid cases, resources are running low and personnel is stretched thin," he noted. With just 36.6% of the population fully inoculated against COVID-19, Alabama has the worst vaccination rate of any state in the country.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.