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Despite Biden claim, workers won't lose jobless benefits by turning down work in many states

Many small businesses across the nation, particularly restaurants, are struggling to find workers to fill job openings and they're attributing it to enhanced federal jobless benefits

Updated: May 12, 2021 - 10:42am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

President Biden claims that workers will lose their jobless benefits by turning down jobs, but that won't happen in states that have suspended work search requirements during the pandemic.

"We're going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said on Monday during a speech on the state of the economy. "There are a few COVID-19-related exceptions so that people aren't forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck, but otherwise, that's the law."

Only some states have decided to reinstate work search requirements as a condition for receiving weekly jobless payments. States like Alabama and North Dakota have announced plans to end participation in the federal pandemic unemployment benefit program altogether.

Following Biden's remarks on Monday, the White House released a fact sheet detailing efforts it plans to take to encourage more states to reinstate work search requirements. 

"It is possible that the Biden administration could cajole the states that haven't reimposed work requirements for the federal unemployment benefits into doing so, but that would likely only affect claims going forward," Sean Higgins, Competitive Enterprise Institute research fellow, told Just the News on Tuesday. "Funds awarded under a state's existing rules would remain with the recipient.

"States are already moving in the direction of reimposing requirements, albeit slowly. The Biden administration's defensiveness on the issue suggests they want the issue to go away and will prod the states to speed up. It is unlikely that workers currently getting the benefits will lose them in the short term. Biden has admitted his administration will have to twist arms to get states to enforce this, so it won't happen overnight."

Some Republicans are arguing that the continued $300 weekly federal supplemental jobless benefit is slowing America's economic recovery. Biden has said that the enhanced benefits have had no measurable effect on the economy, despite a lackluster jobs report for April.

Many small businesses across the nation, particularly restaurants, are reportedly struggling to find workers to fill job openings and many are attributing it to enhanced federal jobless benefits. Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan continues a $300 added weekly benefit on top of state jobless benefits through September. 

The federal benefit was $600 from March 2020 to July 2020 before it dropped to $400 until Biden signed a sweeping COVID-19 stimulus bill in March of this year. 

Prior to passage in March 2020 of the CARES Act, the first major COVID-19 stimulus bill, four Republican senators warned that adding a substantial federal jobless payment on top of state benefits and allowing self-employed individuals to file claims would make it harder for businesses to find employees to fill openings in the future.

The CARES Act ultimately passed in the Senate with the $600 weekly federal benefit, and it passed the House via a voice vote at the beginning of the pandemic. 

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