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Last week, when the Biden administration released a shocking report showing anemic job growth, many U.S. companies said pandemic unemployment insurance was responsible for creating a labor shortage. In response, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) announced new legislation over the weekend that would incentivize people to go back to work by turning unemployment insurance into a signing bonus for new hires.
In a press statement, Sasse said he will introduce the "National Signing Bonus Act," a bill that would convert unemployment insurance's expanded benefits into a two-month bonus for anyone who goes back to work.
"A year ago, before we had vaccines, expanded unemployment benefits started to pay more than work. The emergency need was real, but the emergency plan was flawed. The emergency UI program is now penalizing people for going back to work," Sasse said.
"Now, as millions of Americans are vaccinated each day, we've got crummy job numbers – 7,400,000 jobs are available but fewer than 300,000 people returned to work last month. We've got to get America and Americans up and running. We need a pro-worker, pro-recovery plan," he added.
Sasse's plan would pay a bonus equal to 101% of current pandemic unemployment insurance benefits through several payments for anyone who demonstrates they found a job and are keeping it. Anyone who gets a job by July 4 would be eligible to receive the payments.
President Joe Biden extended enhanced $300-per-week unemployment benefits through September as part of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Congress have blamed the enhanced benefits for bottlenecking the jobs market by paying people more to be unemployed than they could earn by having a job.
Economists had predicted that nearly 1 million new jobs would be reported for April, following the trend from February when 536,000 new jobs were added and March when 770,000 were added. Instead, only 266,000 new jobs were added in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 6.1%. Bloomberg reported that the overall employment rate is still 8 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels.
When those crushing numbers were reported Friday, Sasse issued a statement criticizing unemployment insurance for offering people more pay than a job.
"We should be clear about the policy failure at work here: There are 7,400,000 jobs open in the US – but fewer than 300,000 people found new work last month. Why? This tragedy is what happens when Washington know-it-all's decide to pretend they're generous by paying more for unemployment than for work. This obviously hurts our economy, but more precisely this hurts people on every Main Street in the nation," he said.
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