Federal Lawmakers Concerned Over Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

For many Marketers, concerns over whether enhanced unemployment benefits are making it more difficult for businesses to get employees back to work are nothing new.

Last week, the issue gained fresh attention following the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ release of the April jobs report which reflected surprisingly disappointing job growth numbers.

On Tuesday, a coalition of nine GOP Senators, led by Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), introduced the Get Americans Back to Work Act. Identical legislation was also introduced in the House on the same day.

Spanning just two pages, the Get Americans Back to Work Act is as straightforward as legislative proposals come.

Starting on May 31, 2021, it would decrease the amount that an individual can receive in additional federal unemployment benefits from $300 per week to $150 per week. It would then completely eliminate the enhanced benefits as of June 30, 2021.

As things currently stand after the passage of the last COVID relief package, the $300 per week federal enhanced unemployment benefits are set to continue through September 6, 2021 though eleven states have announced that they will stop participating in the federal program before that date.

Also, this week, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), introduced the National Signing Bonus Act. Under Senator Sasse’s proposal, individuals who start a new job by July 4 and continue in that position would be eligible for a federally funded signing bonus (paid out across multiple payments) equal to roughly two months of what they would have gotten through expanded unemployment benefits had they remained unemployed.

The idea behind this proposal is to replace the last two months of enhanced unemployment benefits with a signing bonus for workers who might be financially unmotivated to return to work before the program ends in September.

While the White House has denied that enhanced unemployment benefits are the driving force behind the poor April jobs numbers, the data and developments on Capitol Hill did prompt a series of actions from the Administration.

On Monday, the White House issued a Fact Sheet announcing, “Additional Steps to Help Americans Return to Work.”

Of note, as part of these initiatives, the President directed the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate their work search requirements.

As a matter of background, the federal enhanced unemployment benefits were first introduced as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which President Trump signed into law on March 18, 2020.

Under the FFCRA, in order to participate in the federal program to receive these enhanced benefits, states were required to waive their standard unemployment rules that would have required individuals to be actively searching for work in order to qualify for benefits.

This federal condition has since been lifted and more than half of the states (29 to be exact) have reinstated their work search requirements.

The idea behind the Administration’s push for all states to follow suit is that this will eliminate a worker’s ability to choose between taking a job that is available to them and continuing to receive enhanced unemployment benefits.

With work search requirements, only those employees who genuinely cannot find suitable employment would be eligible for any unemployment benefits, including the enhanced federal benefits.

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