by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A top House Democrat promised his party’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill would “get kids back in school” just months before a hiring shortage upended two school districts in his community—and local officials say enhanced unemployment benefits are to blame.
At least two school districts within Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D., N.Y.) 18th Congressional District boundaries have canceled or scaled back in-person classes due to a bus driver shortage, the Times Herald-Record reported in September. The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) attributed the problem in part to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which Maloney said would “defeat the pandemic” and “get kids back in school.”
“Enhanced federal unemployment benefits and the child tax credit are compounding the problem,” NYSBCA executive director Tammy Mortier told the Times Union in August. “When unemployment runs out in September, we hope to see some of them coming back.”
Maloney, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has acknowledged that such hiring problems could spell trouble for his party in 2022. During a closed-door lunch in late July, Maloney told fellow House Democrats they were on track to lose the midterms thanks in part to “inflation and the hiring shortage affecting low-wage segments of the economy.”
Neither Maloney nor the DCCC returned requests for comment.
Maloney heaped praise on Biden’s stimulus bill before and after Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion piece of legislation. In February, Maloney said the bill would “honor the lives of every single American who has died from this pandemic.” He later called the legislation “a game changer” and said it would “crush this virus,” “jump-start our economy,” and get America “back to normal.”
Mortier, however, is far from the only local leader to malign the bill’s expanded unemployment benefits and child tax credit payments.