State Watch

Georgia official considering cutting federal unemployment to force people back to work

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler (R) is considering ending federal unemployment benefits, which were expanded during the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to force recipients back into the workforce, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Kersha Cartwright, a spokesperson for Butler, said he met with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Monday to discuss the possibility of cutting the $300-a-week federal supplement or the special benefits given to people who are usually ineligible for state unemployment.

“I think the governor’s office and the commissioner are agreed that a major reduction in some programs, if not all programs, is needed,” Cartwright told the AP.

Cartwright told The Hill that Kemp and Butler were still working “to prepare the entire plan,” but said a decision regarding the reduced benefits could come as soon as Friday.

A spokesperson for Kemp, Mallory Blount, told the AP “to expect final decisions on timing and other specifics in the coming days.”

The AP reported that Butler is within his legal authority to cut off federal benefits. He could also decrease the income a person makes while still qualifying for federal benefits.

Several other states such as Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Montana have also withdrawn from the $300-a-week federal assistance boost, which conservatives say is keeping people from reentering the labor market.

On Monday multiple business organizations including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce called for the suspension of benefits, saying getting the unemployed “connected to employers and back to work is the first step” to addressing the labor shortage, the AP reports.

“Because they cannot find labor, businesses are starting to turn down orders, raise prices, and some are even considering closing permanently,” the groups wrote in a statement. “Many restaurants are only offering drive-through, pick-up service, not because of COVID, but because they cannot find enough workers to support full-scale operations.”

Republican lawmakers have argued that federal unemployment benefits have disincentivized workers from looking for jobs.

President Biden announced Monday that his administration would make it clear that workers cannot turn down “suitable” job offers and continue to receive federal benefits.

“We’re going to make it clear that anyone who is collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said.

Tags Brian Kemp Coronavirus coronavirus aid coronavirus pandemic coronavirus relief federal unemployment Georgia Georgia Department of Labor Joe Biden Unemployment Unemployment benefits

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