UPDATE POSTED 4 P.M. FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday he is considering return-to-work incentives but not ending the extended unemployment benefits.
When asked about the letter from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce encouraging the phase out, Beshear said the financial shock might be too much.
“The extra benefits right now puts $34 million a week through our economy there spent primarily on groceries, then on retail and on restaurants. Industries that where his so hard in the pandemic. So what we have to do is make smart decisions about when we phase those out. And make sure we don’t send a shock to our economy that’s going to hurt the business that are already been hurt the most. What we are going to be looking at are incentives to return to work that are going to keep dollars flowing through the economy. That are going to make sure that that person who hadn’t returned to work because of child care isn’t suddenly cut off from the extra help they need. And we are going to thread this needle and get everybody back working without having to be punitive,” Beshear said.
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 11:30 A.M. FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A state business group is urging Gov. Andy Beshear to phase out the federal government’s extended unemployment benefits.
As the state and nation begin to see a return to normalcy with an increase in vaccinated Kentuckians and relaxed regulations, a workforce shortage still remains across the state, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce said.
To begin to fix this issue, the Chamber sent a letter Friday to Beshear asking the administration consider phasing out Kentucky’s participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
The program is providing an additional $300 per week in benefits to unemployed workers eligible for Unemployment Insurance. The extension is scheduled to run through Sept. 6.
Ending participation in the federal program, the Chamber said, will support Kentucky’s economic recovery from the pandemic and help address a serious workforce shortage faced by employers across the state as Kentucky looks to reopen to 100% capacity in the coming weeks.
“The business community fully recognizes that ending Kentucky’s participation in FPUC is not a cure-all for our current workforce shortage. Important steps must also be taken to increase access to high-quality child care, retrain and reskill workers, and increase vaccination rates,” Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts wrote in the letter.
“We also believe that return-to-work incentives, which other states have implemented, are worth exploring, particularly incentives that assist working parents afford and have access to child care. But FPUC is a contributing factor to the workforce shortage, and it is one that we can address today.
“We urge you to take the necessary steps to phase-out Kentucky’s participation in this program by mid-July to continue supporting the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and our return to a new, safer normal,” Watts continued.
“We appreciate the important step you have already taken to address the workforce shortage by reinstating the work search requirement for receiving unemployment benefits. Ending Kentucky’s participation in the FPUC program earlier than the September sunset is a logical next step. The Chamber remains committed to working with your office to rebuild our economy, and we look forward to continuing to work together to bring Kentuckians back to work and fully recover the jobs we lost last Spring.”
Republican lawmakers have pushed Beshear to end the benefits immediately rather than phase them out. Beshear has said he was concerned a quick end would put an unnecessary shock and strain on the state’s economy, where the recovery remains sensitive.
But he’s also said he is willing to revisit the issue.
Some two dozen states are ending the benefits. Most are doing so in June or July.