State Watch

Texas to cut off $300 weekly emergency unemployment benefit

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday said Texas would cut off emergency federal unemployment benefits that provide $300 in weekly payments starting June 26.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said, noting that the number of job openings in the state was on par with the number of people receiving benefits.

The announcement means Texas soon will join more than a dozen other GOP-led states in scaling back some level of federal emergency benefits, such as the $300 increase and a program making benefits available to gig economy workers and self-employed Americans.

But unlike many of the early GOP states to announce benefit cutoffs, Texas has an unemployment rate that is higher than the 6.1 percent national average. At 6.9 percent, the Lone Star state has the 12th highest rate in the nation.

The emergency benefits, which were reinstated in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Biden, are set to last until the first week of September in participating states.

Republicans have argued that the jobless benefits are disincentivizing unemployed individuals from going back to work and fueling labor shortages. Democrats reject those arguments.

“These workers are not just losing $300 extra per week. Many are losing everything, and their incomes will be zero,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who championed the additional benefits, said in a statement.

“Of course, Republicans are only cutting off economic relief to jobless workers—not businesses—showing this is all about politics and sticking it to struggling families,” he added.

Democrats say that reports of labor shortages are overblown, and point to a slew of studies from last summer that concluded additional benefits were not a significant factor in preventing people from taking jobs.

They also argue that employers should offer higher wages to attract more workers.

Uber and Lyft, facing a deficit of drivers, have offered bonuses to lure workers back.

Tags jobless benefits Joe Biden labor shortage Ron Wyden Texas Unemployment insurance unemployment rate
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