President Joe Biden on Monday said that Americans receiving expanded federal unemployment benefits that were implemented during last year’s pandemic relief efforts must accept suitable job offers or risk losing their financial assistance.
“If you’re receiving unemployment benefits and you’re offered a suitable job, you can’t refuse that job and just keep getting unemployment benefits,” Biden said.
“Our economic plan is working. I never said—and no serious analyst ever suggested—that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy is in would be simple, easy, immediate, or perfectly studied,” the president added. “Some months will exceed expectations, others will fall short.”
Biden’s remarks follow last month’s U.S. jobs growth report which was far lower than what the market had predicted. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs last month versus an estimate of 1 million. The unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent from 6 percent in March.
Responding to pleas from businesses to encourage Americans to return to work, Republican leaders from the states of Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina have said that they will be slashing the extended weekly unemployment benefits under the Biden administration’s new $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, and other states, including Florida, are expected to follow suit.
The financial assistance is due to expire in September, and Republicans argue that these benefits have discouraged people from returning to the workforce and have become a drag on the recovery.
“We absolutely can put more people to work,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters during a press conference Wednesday, announcing that Floridians receiving the $300 weekly extra payments will soon have to provide proof that they’re actively looking for a job.
“Normally when you’re getting unemployment, the whole idea is that’s temporary, and you need to be looking for work to be able to get off unemployment,” DeSantis continued. “It was a disaster, so we suspended those job search requirements. I think it’s pretty clear now, we have an abundance of job openings.”
He added: “The demand is there. Businesses want to hire more people, and I think we can go in that direction very soon.”
GOP Texas lawmaker Kevin Brady, meanwhile, accused the White House of being “in denial” that many businesses are struggling to hire more people.
Separately, businesses and organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business lobbying groups, have called on the Biden administration to end the unemployment benefits.
It’s “clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,” the group said.
The president noted Monday that the administration did not “see much evidence” that the unemployment benefits had caused Americans to reject job offers.
“Americans want to work,” he said, adding that the administration could not “turn our backs” on those left jobless by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
“Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic, through no fault of their own,” Biden said, adding, “For many of those folks, unemployment benefits are a lifeline.”
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that the expanded jobless benefits have been a “lifeline of survival” for the unemployed during the pandemic.
Democrats have said that companies aren’t offering high-enough wages or subsidized childcare programs, while some say that last month’s jobs report suggests that Congress needs to pass Biden’s infrastructure bills.
Emel Akan contributed to this report.