August 23, 2021
As reported in USA Today last week, President Biden does not plan to extend the federally-funded $300 unemployment compensation benefit enhancement, which is scheduled to expire Sept. 6.
The article quotes a letter to lawmakers cowritten by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh stating “The temporary $300 boost in benefits will expire on September 6th, as planned. As President Biden has said, the boost was always intended to be temporary and it is appropriate for that benefit boost to expire."
This message contrasts with more ambiguous comments earlier this month from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, which implied the President was considering extending the benefit enhancement, stating, “he hasn’t made a decision to extend it, he also hasn’t made a decision not to.” The prospect of ongoing benefit enhancements concerned many in the business community.
Unemployment benefit enhancements have been part of the government response since the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic and was initially widely supported as many employers were forced to close. However, as vaccines became widely available and the economy gradually reopened, employers increasingly cited enhanced benefits as a contributing factor to a worsening workforce shortage. A May 2021 survey of 500 Americans conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce validated these concerns, including showing that six in 10 respondents said they are in no hurry to return to work and one in six not actively seeking work indicated that the amount of money they are receiving from unemployment benefits and government programs makes it “not worth looking” for work.
While much remains to be done to address the workforce crisis, the phase-down of enhanced benefits is expected to help improve the employment landscape.
Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.