by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lawmakers are eyeing changes to the $600 payment boost to unemployment benefits to alleviate the incentives leading some workers to choose to remain jobless.
Adding to the urgency is that business owners with granted Paycheck Protection Program loans are having a hard time rehiring furloughed workers because of the unemployment benefit. Yet, if they cannot get those workers back, they risk the loan not being forgiven.
Lawmakers hope to address the problem, which stems from the fact that the increased benefits mean that many people would lose money by working, either by reducing the payment or providing workers with a bonus for staying on the job.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney from Utah went the bonus route. He has proposed “Patriot Pay,” which would provide essential workers earning less than $50,000 a temporary bonus of up to $12 per hour for May, June, and July, which are the remaining months of the $600 payment if unemployment benefits are not extended.
“Healthcare professionals, grocery store workers, food processors, and many others — the unsung patriots on the front line of this pandemic — every day risk their safety for the health and well-being of our country, and they deserve our unwavering support,” the senator said when announcing his proposal. …
… On average, unemployment benefits across the country were $385 per week in February 2020, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. When combined with the added benefit, jobless workers receive nearly $1,000 a week. The median salary for a grocery store cashier, which is an essential worker, is roughly $600 a week, according to Salary.com. …
… Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, said a business owner recently angered former employees when he informed them that they were rehired.
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