GOP Montana Gov. Gianforte plans to end federal COVID-related unemployment benefits

More states are lifting COVID-19 restrictions as the nation begins to return to normalcy.

In Montana, part of that effort will include measures meant to incentivize unemployed citizens to return to the workforce, the Washington Examiner reports.

“Open for business again”

According to reports, Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte offered up a solution that involves paying a $1,200 “return to work” bonus and withdrawing from a federal program to provide supplemental unemployment benefit payments.

The clear intention of his action is to encourage individuals to seek jobs, thereby addressing a workforce shortage hampering many businesses in the state from fully reopening.

Gianforte announced the moves in a press release issued by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, asserting: “Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage.”

He went on to insist that “the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” adding that his efforts seek to “incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”

“Paying the price”

Coinciding with that statement was one from Labor and Industry Commission Laurie Esau, who revealed that the state’s labor pool remained about 10,000 workers short of where it was prior to the pandemic despite an unemployment rate at around 3.8%.

“Our labor shortage doesn’t just affect employers and business owners,” she said. “Employers who are forced to work longer shifts, serve more customers or clients, and take on more duties have been paying the price.”

As for the $1,200 incentive payments, they will be available to currently unemployed individuals who accept a job and maintain steady employment for at least four weeks. Those checks will be funded by the American Rescue Plan signed into law earlier this year.

Starting near the end of next month, the state will no longer participate in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program that adds $300 per week on top of typical unemployment benefits.

Furthermore, the state would withdraw from two other pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs, end extended eligibility for benefits, and restore pre-COVID requirements for able-bodied workers to actively search for gainful employment.

According to Business Insider, generous unemployment benefits have served to disincentivized some unemployed Americans from returning to work. Other factors exacerbating the labor shortage are said to be concerns about the public health crisis, a need to care for out-of-school children, and workers simply holding out for higher wages that might become available as employers grow increasingly more desperate.

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