Hurting The Unemployed: How About No?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

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.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    [Business]: "Gee, Mr. Polis you could send us some more money . . .

    . . . or, maybe, how about finding some way to send us some customers with some more money to spend?"

  2. kwtree says:

    I definitely pumped lots of dollars into the economy when I was receiving unemployment benefits last year. Gave $ to family, to charity, paid off debt, bought durable goods, patronized local bizniss., saved a little. 

    I expect most others did the same.

  3. Genghis says:

    So jerb creator pieces of garbage want the wage slavery system back up and running at pre-pandemic levels? This is my surprised face.

    But hey, I suppose we should thank these "more than 100 business owners" for showing us with specificity where not to spend any of our money.

  4. davebarnes says:

    There was an article in today's Wall Street Journal about railroads having trouble hiring workers. You cannot tell me that you can make more in UI benefits than working for a railroad.

  5. Peromyscus says:

    A contractor working at my home this week said he went to the Rockies game over the weekend, and the usual roaming food vendors were absent, making the concourses unnavigable due to folks standing in line for food and drink.  He asked one of the stand operators and they said they couldn't hire people to do the job, despite the bonanza of tips it brings.

    I don't think  my contractor is a Trump guy, but he too seems to have bought into the story that these situations are because of the unemployment benefits.  I countered with hourly wage increases and health concerns.  We both agreed that things wouldn't be different if Trump was in office though.  

  6. Meiner49er says:

    If anyone has the list of those 100 labor camps businesses, I'd enjoy seeing it so I can make sure I don't spend there!

    • JohnInDenver says:

      I went to look … don’t seem to find the letter online.

      CBS affiliate says

      Pete Gazlay, owner of Total Facility Care in Loveland.

      Gazlay headed up the letter. He’s in the business of commercial cleaning and says he is having to turn away jobs because he’s short 30 workers. He says he was getting around 25 applicants a week before the last stimulus payment in March. Then it dropped to about 7 applicants a week.

      Why do I doubt the story of turning away “jobs” for a commercial cleaning company?  If the contracts were longer term, SOMEBODY is cleaning those facilities now, and Gazlay’s shortage of 30 workers means another company may have been able to attract them and get the buildings clean.  If the contracts are short term (clean up a newly built or remodeled house or office), just how good a “job” is he talking about?  I suspect those on unemployment have thought thru preferences, and know there are some “unprefered jobs” they can get almost immediately if they need to. But they are willing to wait and see if a better job is available.

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