U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) Friday joined Ways and Means Committee Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) in reintroducing legislation to help businesses rebuild their workforce by turning enhanced unemployment benefits into a return-to-work bonus. As the top
Republican on the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee, Walorski earlier this week hosted a roundtable discussion with Main Street job creators on challenges they face in hiring the workers they need.
“Last spring, increased unemployment benefits played an important role in helping those who lost a job and – at the time – made sense as a way to reduce the economic impact of stay-at-home orders while businesses were closed,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “More than a year later, we are facing a much different situation. The U.S. economy is on the brink of a strong recovery, and Main Street businesses shouldn’t have to compete with federal unemployment benefits for workers. To rebuild our economy, we need to make sure temporary job losses don’t turn into permanent ones. As safe and effective vaccines roll out and states roll back restrictions on businesses, now is the time to reconnect workers with jobs.”
The virtual roundtable held on Wednesday featured nine Main Street job creators from across America, including Mark Owens from Argos, Ind., who has struggled to hire the workers necessary to rebuild and grow his small business. Owens is the owner of a USA Insulation franchise that serves North Central Indiana and employs six workers. He also farms 8,000 hogs and manages five semi-trucks that haul products around the country.
“We are short on workers, and I think this has a direct impact from the stimulus package and unemployment that’s out there,” Owens said. “The inability to hire people has put a burden on our business. It’s been quite the burden to have all these tools on hand and not be able to put people in the seats because nobody wants to come and work. We are fighting, today, to keep our businesses alive.”
The partisan, $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act recently signed into law extended supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week until September 6th. The American Action Forum estimates nearly 40 percent of workers could make more on unemployment at this level than they would earn by returning to work.
According to Holly Wade, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses Research Center, businesses are having trouble filling available jobs across the country. “Job openings in February reached an all-time record high for our survey, as 40 percent of small firms have an open position that they aren’t able to currently fill,” Wade said.
The Reopening America by Supporting Workers and Businesses Act would:
• Allow states to make a one-time payment of either $1,200 (full-time) or $600 (part-time) to unemployed workers who return to work prior to July 1st. The bonus would require verification of hours and earnings by the individual’s employer.
• Provide additional support for laid off workers by accelerating a scheduled increase in funding for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) and expanding the pool of eligible workers.
Reinstate the federal work search requirement for individuals receiving unemployment benefits. Last March, when many businesses were closed by government orders, Congress provided flexibility for states to waive this requirement, and waivers remain in place in 32 states.