Biden pushes back as Republican-led states end increased unemployment benefits

A growing number of Republican-led states are rejecting increased unemployment benefits meant to help Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, a move they say will help business owners who can’t find staff. But President Joe Biden said Monday that the enhanced federal benefits aren’t why people aren’t going back to work.

“The line has been because of the generous unemployment benefits, that it’s a major factor in labor shortages. Americans want to work. Americans want to work.” Biden said at the White House on Monday. “I think the people claiming Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people.”

Anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a “suitable job” must take that job or lose unemployment benefits, Biden said, with several exceptions that mean people do not have to choose between their safety and a paycheck.

But officials in Montana, South Carolina and Arkansas have announced they will exit the program by the end of June. Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said the “vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good.”

Arizona’s governor reinstated some requirements waived during the pandemic for unemployed workers to receive benefits. Vermont’s work search requirements for those receiving benefits were also reinstated as of this week.

And other states are pondering similar measures, in light of the Friday report from the Department of Labor showing that the economy added 266,000 jobs in April, far fewer than the 1 million experts expected.

On Sunday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox told CNN he thinks exiting pandemic-related unemployment benefits is a good idea, arguing the recent lower-than-expected jobs report is “what happens when we pay people not to work.”

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