A group of House Republicans is urging the Biden administration to end the federal unemployment benefits program that provided out-of-work Americans with an extra $300 a week, warning the enhanced aid is hampering the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, first obtained by FOX Business, four GOP lawmakers called on the White House to end the jobless supplement before it officially expires on Sept. 6, 2021, citing anemic job growth and a burgeoning labor shortage.
"Enhanced unemployment benefits and public school closures in certain states are weighing down an American economy trying to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic," the Republicans – led by Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. – wrote. "It is past time for Americans to get back to normal. It is past time to end the stay-at-home bonus, reopen schools for full in-person instruction, and incentivize Americans to get back to work."
The letter comes on the heels of the May jobs report, which revealed that employers added 559,000 jobs last month, missing Wall Street's expectations for a gain of about 650,000. It marked the second consecutive miss for job creation: In April, the economy added a revised 278,000 jobs, much smaller than the 1 million forecast by Refinitiv economists.
There remain 7.6 million fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the pandemic began.
The lackluster payroll growth has ignited concerns about a labor shortage and its potential impact on the economy's tepid rebound from the pandemic. Employers are struggling to fill available positions – in April, there were a record 9.3 million open jobs – forcing them to reduce hours, pay overtime and raise prices.
At least 25 GOP-led states have announced plans over the past month to cut off the sweetened jobless aid, a move they say will help businesses struggling to hire employees.
The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans are receiving about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits. (For comparison's sake, that's about $32,000 annually, or roughly double the nation's minimum wage.) About 40% of unemployment recipients are receiving more money from the government than they earned at their previous job, the Republican lawmakers said.
"Rather than champion [Operation Warp Speed's] amazing results, Democrats are proposing to permanently extend these enhanced benefits with a corresponding tax hike," they wrote. "This would have a devastating effect on our economy, which is already struggling with government-induced inflation."
President Biden and Democrats have rejected the notion that Americans are choosing to stay home and collect the extra unemployment benefits – part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law passed in March – rather than returning to work.
Still, Biden has emphasized that the unemployment benefits will end in September as planned, despite momentum among some of his party's members to make the extra money permanent.
"It’s going to expire in 90 days," Biden said on Friday. "That makes sense."
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming are moving to end the boosted unemployment benefits sometime over the summer.
At least four of the states – Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma – will give workers up to $2,000 when they accept a new job.
Roughly 4 million people will lose their jobless aid as a result of the new policies, according to one estimate from the left-leaning Century Foundation.