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Georgia looks at cutting jobless aid to push more toward work

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 8:18 AM EDT
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ATLANTA - Georgia’s labor commissioner says he’s considering cutting federal benefits to workers in an effort to push them back to work.

The move by elected Republican Mark Butler came a week after he said he would reinstate work search requirements for unemployment beneficiaries.

Butler already said the state is restoring the rule that unemployment benefit recipients must prove they’re looking for work.

Butler and Gov Brian Kemp met Monday and discussed possibilities such as cutting the $300-a-week federal supplement to unemployed workers or cutting off federal benefits to people not usually eligible for state unemployment.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and a number of other business groups have called for suspending the benefits, citing a labor shortage.

The move would come after South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said last week the state will stop participating in federal pandemic programs that give extra cash to unemployed workers.

“Right now is the time to be looking. The job market right now is as hot as it’s ever been,” Butler said last week.

More than 230,000 jobs are listed on employgeorgia.com.

These are jobs the commissioner says unemployed Georgians should start applying for.

While the Georgia Department of Labor’s mission is to bridge the pay gap for those unemployed, Butler says the agency must now shift its focus to re-employment.

The mood is the same in South Carolina.

Dan Ellzey, executive director of the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce, said getting people back to work is best for the “economic health of the state.”

He said McMaster’s directive to end involvement in all federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs provides “a clear plan to accelerate our economy by transitioning individuals from unemployment to employment.”

The national numbers reflect that same problem.

Employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, sharply lower than in March and far fewer than economists had expected.

The recovery from the pandemic recession has been so fast that many businesses have been caught flat-footed without enough workers in the face of surging consumer demand.

Last month’s hiring slowdown appears to reflect a host of factors. Nearly 3 million people are reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus, according to government surveys. More women also dropped out of the workforce last month, likely to care for children, after many of them had returned in the previous two months.

From reports by WTOC, WCSC and The Associated Press