President Joe Biden delivers remarks in honor of labor unions in the East Room at the White House, September 8, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) The American workers and families who have sacrificed through an unprecedented health and economic crisis deserve better.
Labor Day this year marked not only the end of summer and an opportunity to celebrate American workers but also the first week since the onset of the pandemic in which millions of jobless Americans will no longer receive overly generous unemployment benefits that pay them more to remain unemployed and make it excessively difficult for employers to hire. Unfortunately, these employers’ woes may persist despite the expiration of these supplemental unemployment benefits. Amid a continued gulf between firms’ demand for workers and workers’ willingness to meet that demand, the Biden administration continues to propose, enact, and extend a web of policies that tax work — explicitly through statutory hikes and implicitly by reducing the economic return to work — and incentivize continued unemployment.
The federal government’s Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program — the $300 weekly supplement to state-provided unemployment benefits — expired over the holiday weekend. While roughly half of U.S. governors moved to end this supplement months ago, the nationwide expiration comes after total unfilled job openings reached an all-time high in June of 10.1 million, exceeding the total number of unemployed Americans by nearly 600,000. The pervasiveness and seriousness of worker shortages is evident to most Americans and is acutely felt by small businesses, half of whom report openings they are unable to fill. While the FPUC program contributed to these issues, a number of other government policies that remain in effect will continue to limit the ability of the labor market to fully and rapidly recover.
These policies implicitly tax work by increasing the amount of government assistance to jobless Americans while not requiring the beneficiaries to work or look for work. Most recently, the Biden administration announced a massive permanent expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which will result in food-stamp benefits increasing by nearly 30 percent in
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