‘Halt increased unemployment benefits,’ KSGOP delegation calls on Gov. Kelly

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – On Monday, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.) and U.S. Representatives Ron Estes (KS-04), Jake LaTurner (KS-02) and Tracey Mann (KS-01) sent a letter to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly calling on her to help get Kansans back to work by halting the increased federal unemployment benefits.

The full letter is provided below:

Dear Governor Kelly,

We write today to urge you to end the pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs in Kansas. Across the state, we’re hearing more and more from businesses searching for the employees they need to reopen yet struggling to make hires due to the generous benefits offered through the unemployment system.

In April, the U.S. economy was projected to add close to one million jobs, building on the momentum of increasing vaccinations and over 900,000 jobs added in March. However, the April jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that only 266,000 jobs were added nationally, despite over 8 million jobs being available across the country. The extension of the generous $300 per week in additional federal benefits until September, when coupled with the extended state benefits, provides a lucrative government incentive to stay home despite clear signs that the economy is recovering and life is trending toward normal.

The continuation of the additional federal unemployment compensation benefits means that, on average, recipients are earning $15-20 per hour to stay home. For many in the hospitality or restaurant industries, these extended temporary benefits provide more than or equal to what an employer can offer. Other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, construction, and transportation, are also feeling the impacts of these generous federal incentives. Unemployment insurance was never meant to be a permanent salary replacement, rather the benefit is meant to provide temporary assistance to those who had involuntarily lost their jobs while they searched for new employment opportunities.

After months of pandemic related stay-at-home orders and government-imposed lockdowns, businesses are ready to reopen and welcome back customers, but are unable to incentivize workers to return to the job. Vaccination rates are increasing across the country, and in Kansas the coronavirus case count is only 7% of what it was in January of this year. With the sharp decline in new cases nationally, the Centers for Disease Control recently announced that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to social distance or wear masks indoors. It’s clear that we have the virus under control, and now we must do everything we can to get people back to work and kids back in schools.

We have made great strides to develop safe and effective vaccines, allowing people to return to work or school without fear while putting our country on the right track to achieve herd immunity. We must end the federal incentive to stay home so that we can truly reopen the economy, provide Kansans with meaningful and purposeful work, and get our country back to normal. 

Last Thursday, Governor Laura Kelly said the state had not made a “final decision” on whether it will keep federal unemployment benefits. “We have not really made a final decision on that issue, it is something that we are exploring,” Kelly said.

Her response came as the extensions of federal programs sparked an ongoing debate, with some GOP-led states deciding to end the programs early to address labor shortages.

The governor announced Wednesday that the federal unemployment payments will continue in the state, receiving pushback from Republican U.S. Congressman for Kansas Roger Marshall. “If the governor would go out and talk to businesses, talk to Kansans, she would quickly understand that the number one impediment in getting this economy growing is getting people back to work,” Marshall said in an interview with Kansas’ Capitol Bureau.

Marshall’s advocated to cut the extra $300 federal unemployment extensions included in the federal government’s coronavirus relief package, hoping to encourage people to return to work.

Last Wednesday, the governor said that the state is monitoring the situation closely. Kelly clarified that there is information that the state needs to look into before making a definite move.

“I understand that there is some concern on the part of businesses that perhaps it is the unemployment benefits that are creating the lack of applicants for jobs, particularly lower paying jobs. There’s conflicting anecdotal data right now, and I need to just really study the issue and figure out whether that’s the cause, or if there are other things that we need to do to ensure that our employers have access to a workforce.”

However, Kelly said that she is not one to cower to political pressure.

“I have always researched the issues, figured out what to do, and then acted accordingly, regardless of the political pressure that I get on issues,” Kelly said.

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