CBS4 Denver reports on yet another request this week by business interests asking Gov. Jared Polis to cut off the expanded unemployment benefits being paid to workers by the federal government through the first week of September prematurely, in hopes that doing so will “motivate” those workers to return to their pre-pandemic stations:
A group of more than 100 business owners in northern Colorado sent a letter to Gov. Polis, saying the extra weekly payments are disincentivizing people to go back to work, and causing a shortage of workers.
The expanded unemployment benefits that have been flowing to workers for over a year now, already cut in half from the original $600 per week, are set to end in about six weeks. As we’ve explained each time Republicans and business lobbyists have called for the money to be cut off over the last few months, there’s scant evidence that expanded unemployment benefits are slowing workers return to the workforce. This is especially true in Colorado where the minimum wage is well above the federal $7.25 an hour, and is off-base in all cases since workers in every state are required to look for new jobs while they receive unemployment benefits.
In his response to this latest request, Gov. Polis makes the argument even simpler: he would be a fool to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Colorado’s economy.
“I wish that we could use the money for something else, but this is $600 to $800 million that the federal government is pumping into Colorado,” Gov. Polis said.
Polis said the weekly payments are temporary and helping businesses in Colorado.
“This current money is only here for another month, but if we cut it off, it would be less money for our retail businesses, for our stores,” Polis said Wednesday.
Once you realize that expanded unemployment benefits are not the reason employers can’t fill many entry-level low paying positions, any rational basis for cutting the benefits off disappears. No one who wants Colorado to recover as quickly as possible from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic should support a single dime of available money to not be flowing into the state–especially money going directly into the hands of working class people who are most likely to plug it right back into the economy.
It seems like an eternity ago, but the reality is that Colorado’s “labor shortage” was in the headlines long before the pandemic. Rather than meanspirited, shortsighted attempts to punitively motivate workers into accepting the status quo ante, maybe it’s time for businesses to make better job offers.
After all, an employee’s job market is a free market too.