Here’s The Real Reason GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid
In recent weeks Republican governors in 25 states have announced that they are ending enhanced unemployment benefits, funded by the federal government, that were implemented at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Every one of them echoed the GOP talking point that people are making more money from unemployment than they would be if they went out and got a job. Cutting benefits, they argue, is the best way to get the U.S. economy moving again.
But the fact is that a number of those governors have personal connections to businesses that are trying to find workers and could benefit significantly from that policy change. That’s according to a Washington Post review of financial disclosures from state elected officials around the country.
Case in point: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. On May 14, Justice praised the country’s patriotic work ethic when he announced the end of enhanced unemployment, saying, “West Virginians have access to thousands of jobs right now. We need everybody back to work. We’ve got to have you back to work. America is all about work. That’s what has made this great country.”
What Justice didn’t mention is that he has a massive business portfolio and one of his most prominent holdings is the iconic Greenbrier resort. The Greenbrier has been looking for dozens of new employees in recent weeks, but until recently had gotten far fewer applications than in prior years. But after its owner – the governor – announced his decision to cut off unemployment benefits, job applicants began lining up to work at the luxury hotel and resort, according to The Post.
Kathy Miller, vice president of human resources at the Greenbrier, didn’t dispute the connection. “Fortunately the applicant pool has started to improve, so we’re very happy about that. I think that people are preparing, if they are under West Virginia unemployment, to get back into the workforce.”
Other Republican governors stand to benefit. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu’s family invests in the Waterville Valley Resort, a ski resort in the White Mountains with a full slate of summer offerings including boating, tennis and golf. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum sits on the board of Arthur Companies, a family agricultural business currently advertising for truck drivers, general laborers and IT technicians. And Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is a shareholder in his father’s company, Southern Air Conditioning and Supply.
The cutoffs will affect over 4 million people, according to analysis by Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank. More than 2 million people will lose their benefits entirely.
Despite Republican claims to the contrary studies conducted last summer found that enhanced benefits had no impact on employment rates or rehiring. Rather, the Biden administration says that Americans’ reluctance to return to work more likely is due to a lack of child care, lingering concerns over safety during the pandemic and low wages.