The weekly boost to state unemployment benefits was part of the third Trump-era pandemic stimulus package. Even under Trump, some Republicans argued that the supplement, which was $600 per week at the time, would result in some people staying out of the workforce because they would earn more money by staying home.
The benefit was renewed under President Joe Biden with a lower $300 per week amount, but has come under scrutiny because of lukewarm economic indicators and business owners complaining about being unable to hire workers.
On June 1, Maryland became the 25th state to say it will terminate the benefits. All of the states involved will have terminated the payments between June 12 and July 13. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that while the program gave “important temporary relief” during the pandemic, it was no longer needed, now that “vaccines and jobs … are in good supply.”
The 24 other states that are set to terminate the benefits offered similar explanations, arguing that the $300 weekly checks are causing people to turn down good jobs, leaving businesses struggling to maintain operations.
The Biden administration and Democrats argue that other troubles are keeping people out of the workforce, including a lack of child care, fear of infection, and low wages. The seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 infections in the United States is the lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 41 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and tens of millions are assumed to have acquired immunity, although some may still be able to transmit the virus.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
The theory behind ending the $300 boost will undergo a large-scale test as two dozens states terminate the benefit. Benefits expire June 12 in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri, with the other 21 states falling off through July 10.
Unemployed workers may still be eligible for regular state unemployment benefits. But those vary widely. Unemployed people must take suitable jobs that are offered, White House officials have emphasized.
“Our view is that it’s going to take time for workers to regain confidence in the safety of the workplace, re-establish childcare, school, and commuting arrangements, and finish getting vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on June 2.
The White House won’t try to stop states from cutting special unemployment benefits, she said last month.
Based on data from May 8 Department of Labor records, about 2.8 million people were collecting pandemic benefits in the 25 states terminating the program in the next few weeks.
Job postings are at a record high in the United States, while job growth in April was a disappointing 266,000. Employers in industries from manufacturing to hospitality say they’re desperately seeking more workers.
White House officials fear that rushing to kill programs too early, before mass vaccination is completed, could hurt working people and an economy still struggling to get back to health and millions of jobs short of where it was before the pandemic.
Reuters contributed to this report.