Most Americans Support Pulling Unemployment Boost

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on May 28, 2021

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A diverse group of individuals awaiting job interviews.

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So far, 23 states are getting rid of boosted unemployment -- and the public seems to be on board.

When the coronavirus outbreak first exploded, millions of jobs were shed in those first few weeks alone. In fact, the U.S. jobless rate has been so high throughout the pandemic that lawmakers have consistently boosted unemployment benefits in an effort to help those out of work stay afloat.

In March, the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, and that bill increased unemployment benefits by $300 a week through early September. But over the past few weeks, 23 states have announced they'll pull the plug on those extra benefits ahead of schedule. In fact, some states are cutting off those benefits as early as June, leaving jobless workers with just their lower state-level unemployment benefit.

Losing that extra $300 a week is a blow to the people who are counting on it. But in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, more than half of Americans said they support the idea of pulling those increased benefits early.

Why are boosted benefits going away?

The main reason states are pulling the plug on the extra unemployment benefits boils down to labor shortages. Despite the fact that the U.S. jobless rate is still high, in some states, it's gone down -- and those state officials fear that if they keep boosted unemployment in place, those collecting that money won't be incentivized to find jobs.

In light of that, a good 54% of Americans think lawmakers are doing the right thing by pulling those increased benefits, while 38% think it's the wrong thing to do. But either way, a lot of jobless people could now face a financial crunch in the absence of that extra money in their bank accounts.

While it's easy to point to boosted benefits as the reason so many people aren't returning to work, that assumption glosses over one key issue -- childcare, or a lack thereof. Many schools have yet to return to a full schedule of in-person learning. And for lower-wage workers, not having that built-in childcare could actually make working cost-prohibitive. For some people, it would mean spending more money on care than what they'd bring home.

What's more, while coronavirus vaccinations are widely available to the public at this point, not everyone can get one. Some jobless workers may be recovering from an illness or surgery, or be in another situation where getting inoculated is not medically advised. Pulling those workers' boosted unemployment benefits could mean leaving them in a financially fragile state, especially given the number of people who don't have any savings to fall back on.

However, whether or not the public agrees with lawmakers' decision to pull boosted unemployment benefits is almost irrelevant -- states don't need to ask permission to go ahead with those plans. But still, if their goal is to get more jobless people back into the labor force, some lawmakers may end up sorely disappointed when workers continue to stay home for reasons outside of an extra $300 a week.

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