U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia-07) is co-sponsoring a bill that would provide $180 per week through Labor Day to people who get jobs after being unemployed. The Strengthening Unemployment Programs to Provide Opportunities for Recovery and Training (SUPPORT) for New Workers Act is meant to incentivize people to return to work who are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including an extra $300 federal pandemic unemployment benefit.
In a press release, Spanberger said, “The expansion of unemployment insurance has been a vital lifeline to individuals and families across our country who have lost their jobs and livelihoods in the last year. However, as more Virginians become vaccinated and our economy rebuilds from the pandemic, our businesses have begun reopening and rehiring the employees they need to run at full capacity. Yet, many of these potential employees now face barriers to reentering the workforce, including childcare and transportation costs. These barriers must be addressed, but the burden should not rest on our small or medium-sized business owners alone.”
U.S. Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey-11) and Peter Meijer (R-Michigan-03) co-led the introduction of the bill, announced on Tuesday.
The proposal would be funded by the federal money already given to the states to pay for the extra $300-a-week unemployment benefit, also set to end on Labor Day.
Businesses in Virginia have struggled to attract employees, and business advocates suggest that might be because people prefer the boosted unemployment benefits to jobs. 25 Republican-led states and one Democrat-led state have earlier expirations for the extra benefit in their state, but the benefit remains in place in Virginia amid concerns that ending the extra unemployment benefits early could hurt economic recovery.
In Virginia, Republicans and business advocates have called for back-to-work bonuses to incentivize people to return to work. But Democrats are also looking for solutions. In addition to Spanberger’s proposal, Representative Elaine Luria (D-Virginia-02) has called for better enforcement of job-search requirements for unemployment benefit recipients. Governor Ralph Northam has also launched a grant program to split costs of hiring bonuses with some businesses.
Meijer said, “While the end of the pandemic is in sight and life is steadily getting back to normal for many people, our country is experiencing a serious workforce crisis that is severely hindering what could otherwise be a strong rebound from COVID and the challenges it presented.”
He added, “I hear from employers across West Michigan nearly every day about the labor supply problem that forces businesses to either reduce hours or close because they can’t find willing employees. The Biden Administration’s enhanced federal unemployment benefits incentivize Americans to stay home rather than get back to work.”
The Support for New Workers Act has support from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association (VRLTA), and ChamberRVA.
“We are hearing frequently of restaurants that need to close for two days a week, hotel rooms that go unsold from shortages of cleaning staff, and other challenges as a result of staffing shortages. These businesses need assistance to encourage individuals to join the industry,” VRLTA President Eric Terry said in the Spanberger press release.
He said, “The SUPPORT for New Workers Act will provide a needed boost to get employees back into the workforce of our restaurants, hotels, and attractions.”
– – –