Governor Cooper resists calls from GOP senators to end ‘excessive federal benefits’
RALEIGH, North Carolina (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Thursday resisted calls from the state’s two Republican U.S. senators to stop accepting federal funding for improved unemployment payments, as many companies have a hard time hiring.
“I recognize the issues with the hospitality industry which is in need of workers right now, but there are a lot of challenges that people are facing,” Cooper told CBS17. “There are a lot of struggling families there, and unemployment benefits also help the economy a lot.”
On Wednesday, Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr released a joint statement highlighting the challenges businesses face in filling positions.
“Employers, especially in hard-hit industries like tourism, service and hospitality, are finding they can’t compete with excessive federal benefits. Time is running out for industries that depend on the summer season for a large part of their activities, ”they said.
Qualifying individuals currently receive an additional $ 300 per week in addition to the amount they receive for state unemployment benefits. When they are added together, the maximum amount is $ 650.
Under the American Rescue Plan Congress approved earlier this year, these payments are expected to continue until early September.
Almost half of the states have announced their intention to stop payments prematurely.
Cooper said, “I want to work with (the companies) to solve the problem. Unemployment is falling. I issued a decree restoring the job search (requirement). And we’re going to work together to make sure the industry has the workers it needs. “
Republicans in the General Assembly proposed using federal money to pay people an incentive of up to $ 1,500 to accept and keep a job for at least 60 days. However, this plan has stalled in the uncertainty of whether it is permissible to use the funding for this reason. They called on Congress to act.
When asked if he would support using state funding to pay premiums instead, Cooper said, “You know, there’s a lot of money that is potentially available for that. So we can’t wait to find a way to do this and other ways to help the hospitality industry right now. “
Economist Mike Walden said it was unclear how much the incentive plan would help, given the unusual situation the country faces.
“We are in uncharted territory,” he said. “Logically, yes, that should motivate people to look for work.”
He said improved unemployment benefits are just one factor affecting job search. Ongoing concerns about COVID and getting affordable child care are also concerns.
“It’s a short-term problem because the increased unemployment benefits will end in September,” Walden said. “As time goes on and more companies are hiring, I think a lot of companies will be motivated to do what they can and get people to come and look for work.”
Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) told a Senate committee on Thursday that it was unclear how many people would ultimately seek the back-to-work bonus if it was finally implemented.
“This concept is a new idea for the government. But, if you look around at what employers are doing in situations like this, they often add incentives, ”he told CBS 17 on Wednesday.
When CBS 17 contacted the office of Democratic Representative David Price, he said:
“People want the stability of a job with a living wage and good benefits, but for some, temporary unemployment insurance is the only option. And here in North Carolina, we have one of the shortest unemployment benefit durations in the country. The US bailout built on previous federal aid to provide a desperately needed bridge to allow our working families to get to the other side of this pandemic. Now is not the time to take the carpet off them and deny them the unemployment insurance they rely on. “