The fight over enhanced federal unemployment insurance is only just beginning as 19 Republican-led states have decided to end the supplemental payments early instead of allowing them to expire in September. The GOP claims that workers are being paid to stay home, and that that in turn is getting in the way of hiring. The reality, however, is that many people are reluctant to return to jobs that have gotten increasingly harder with no discernible increase in pay or benefits. Compounding the matter further is the lack of resources dedicated toward child care, the costs of health insurance, and overall quality of life.
On Monday, an analysis by Slate columnnist Jordan Weissmann found that one of the biggest reasons hiring has fallen is because the COVID-19 pandemic is still in full swing:
Cases are declining, but the totals are still nearly as high as they were last summer. Given that many people have yet to be vaccinated, health concerns may be keeping some people like the immunocompromised on the sidelines of the labor market. Also, schools are only partially reopened in much of the country, meaning parents still have significant child care responsibilities that may keep them from working. According to the the Return to Learn Tracker, a project by the American Enterprise Institute and Davidson College that monitors school reopenings, as of May 3 just 50 percent of the nation’s school districts were offering fully in-person instruction, meaning that ‘all grade levels can attend school in buildings five days per week, though families can opt for fully remote instruction or a hybrid model.’
Moreover, Slate argued, those same GOP-run states have “done a lackluster job with their vaccine rollouts and are still leaning on some amount of remote learning. As of this weekend, all but two of them—Iowa and New Hampshire—had vaccinated less of their residents than the national average of 47 percent, according to the New York Times’ tracker.”
This means that “Republican states are blaming unemployment benefits for labor shortages at a moment when they have yet to fully address the public health or child care challenges that are almost certainly keeping some residents from working. And while cutting off government aid would successfully force some parents with kids at home or people with serious health concerns like the immunocompromised back into the workforce just as a matter of necessity, it’s not necessarily a humane way of going about things,” wrote Slate, adding that Republican gloom and doom has not changed much over the last year. Neither has the party’s credo of profits over people.
“It’s worth remembering that Republicans spent much of last summer complaining that unemployment benefits were holding back the country’s economic recovery, even though we’d yet to even get a vaccine and were in the thick of the virus’s early waves. Nudging Americans back to work at this moment isn’t as egregious now that shots are widely available. But they’re still putting a burden on workers in the interest of business,” Slate concluded.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.