Red State Back-to-Work Trend Could Impact 4.8 Million

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4.8 Million

That’s how many people could lose their federal unemployment benefits if all Republican state governors follow the lead of the red states that have already said they will withdraw early from the pandemic programs, according to one estimate. 

In an effort to get people back to work, at least 16 states have announced they are withdrawing this summer from special pandemic unemployment programs that were supposed to last until Sept. 6. 

The programs, created by the CARES Act last year and extended by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits past the usual 26 weeks, allow gig workers and contractors—who are normally ineligible—to collect benefits, and add a $300 supplement to weekly benefits. (Most are withdrawing from all the programs, but Ohio and Arizona have only announced ending the $300 supplement.) 

In total, 4.8 million of the 16 million people getting benefits under those programs are in red states, estimates Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation think tank who analyzed Department of Labor data.

Republicans and Democrats have taken different approaches to solving the sudden labor shortage cropping up as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers—especially restaurants—are having a hard time staffing up, so while Biden, a Democrat, is re-imposing work search requirements to collect unemployment (requirements suspended during the pandemic), Republicans are ending programs they say are discouraging people from working. Red states including Montana and Arizona are even offering return-to-work bonuses of $1,200 or $2,000 for those who leave unemployment rolls and get a job.