- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Local economies across the country stand to take a collective hit of more than $12 billion when 24 states cut off supercharged unemployment benefits ahead of a September expiration date, Democrats on a key congressional panel said Wednesday.

Twenty-four states are foregoing an average of $756 million worth of weekly unemployment benefits by choosing to end them early, according to a report prepared by the Democratic staff on the Joint Economic Committee.

And states across the country will miss out on a cumulative total of more than $12 billion flowing into local economies between June and September based on the benefits’ “multiplier” effect, according to the JEC report.

Rep. Don Beyer, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the panel, said there’s little evidence that the supercharged benefits are holding back employment — echoing what the White House and others on the left have said about the issue.

“If states proceed with their plans to end these critical programs, they will be ripping the rug out from under millions of Americans and further hindering our economic recovery,” Mr. Beyer said.

The bicameral committee, which produces reports on economic conditions and policy, is currently comprised of 11 Democrats and nine Republicans.

Republican governors have taken steps in recent weeks to end the $300-per-week federal boost to regular unemployment checks, saying the extra cash is incentivizing people to stay home rather than look for work as coronavirus-related restrictions get rolled back.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday that his home state is now at a competitive disadvantage compared to surrounding states that announced an early end to the boosted benefits.

“The coronavirus is behind us — we need to get back to work,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We need to do things productively.”

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March extended the extra benefits into early September.

The JEC study includes estimates based on 24 states that have announced they’re ending the $300-per-week boost in the coming weeks.

The study assumes that Maryland will continue the enhanced benefits into early September.

But Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had announced Tuesday that his state also will end the pandemic-related benefits early.

“While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” Mr. Hogan said. “And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages.”

The White House has downplayed the potential impact the extra $300-per-week boost could be having on employment levels.

“It’s going to take time for workers to regain confidence in the safety of the workplace, re-establish child care, school and commuting arrangements and finish getting vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.

Some governors have announced that in lieu of the expanded unemployment, they plan to use funding from the relief package to provide “back to work bonuses” for people who had been on unemployment and who find and keep a job.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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