At an event announcing the release of $350 billion for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments allocated in American Rescue Plan to boost post-pandemic economic recovery, President Joe Biden reaffirmed the rules of the unemployment insurance (UI) program.
“We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said Monday, noting that there are some safety exceptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “but otherwise, that’s the law.”
Biden pushed back against critics who have called for the White House to end the $300 weekly unemployment benefit, blaming the enhanced federal bonus for the lower figures in April’s monthly jobs report. Some Republican governors have even rejected the aid to try and force Americans back to work.
“I know there's been a lot of discussion since Friday, since Friday's report, that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work,” Biden said. “Well, we don't see much evidence of that.”
“It’s easy to say, the line has been, because of the generous unemployment benefits that it’s a major factor in labor shortages,” Biden continued. “Americans want to work.”
The White House reiterated later Monday the “basic rules” of the UI: “A core purpose of the UI program is helping workers get back to work, and UI provides laid-off workers with temporary assistance to help pay bills and relieve hardship. By reaffirming these rules and purposes, the Administration will ensure that the UI program continues to support workers and facilitate hiring.”
The Biden Administration released guidance on Monday detailing the additional steps they are taking to help Americans return to work, including providing funding from the American Rescue Plan to get funds to child care providers quickly, so parents can get back to work.
Between Feb. 2020 and March 2021, the White House said, 520,000 mothers and 170,000 fathers between 20-54 have left the workforce and not returned, many of whom cannot work due to disruptions in child care.
The new funding released from the relief bill, along with the guidance released by the Department of Health and Human Services, “will encourage states to get funding out quickly and to make it as easy as possible for hundreds of thousands of child care providers, including centers and family-based providers, to receive the funding.”
“In all, these funds will support child care providers in keeping their doors open, benefiting the parents of more than 5 million children who rely on them to stay in or return to the labor force,” the White House added.
The Biden Administration will also direct the Secretary of Labor to expand states’ reemployment services and job counseling through the public workforce system, make it easier for employers to hire new workers and rehire and retain workers, and clarify the rules of the UI program, including reinstating work search requirements for recipients.
While acknowledging that “there is a great deal more to do” in order to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic, including more Americans getting vaccinated, the White House said that “our economy is growing again at an annual rate of more than 6% and more than 1.5 million jobs have been created over the last three months.”
“Many more workers would like to return to work if they can overcome the barriers that stand in the way,” the White House concluded. “We can and will continue to ensure workers and their families are protected from COVID-19, while also helping those who are able and available to search for good jobs in safe and healthy workplaces.”