Oklahoma Among 23 States Ending Federal Unemployment Benefits Early


Tuesday, May 25th 2021, 6:05 pm
By: Alex Cameron


WASHINGTON -

This week, Florida became the 23rd state -- all Republican-led -- to announce it would end the federal pandemic-induced unemployment benefits before they are scheduled to expire, in an effort to get people back to work.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced last week that Oklahoma would do the same.

Read: Gov. Stitt To End Federal Unemployment Benefits Early, Offers Job Seekers $1,200 Reward

Many Republicans in Congress have been expressing concern since last summer that the special pandemic unemployment benefits would keep people from returning to the workforce. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford repeated that concern.

"We have the largest number of job openings in the history of my state," Sen. Lankford stated while questioning one of the Treasury Department nominees giving testimony."And we’re struggling under the additional unemployment benefits that have been given out where people literally make more not working than they do working."

Lankford has been predicting this would happen and cautioned against extending the federal jobless benefits beyond what was authorized in the CARES Act. He said the $300 many unemployed are getting now on top of state benefits is no longer needed and counterproductive.

But in response to Lankford's question as to whether continuing these benefits constituted sound policy, Assistant Treasury Secretary nominee Benjamin Harris disagreed, saying while he has heard anecdotal evidence of the benefits enticing workers to stay home, there are many factors at play and scholarly studies show that.

"I have not seen the evidence showing that the $300 plus-up has yet been a substantial detriment to hiring," Harris said.

"If you would like to come to Oklahoma, I could drive you around and let you get a chance to meet a lot of folks that would disagree," Lankford replied.

Under the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March, the added federal benefits continue into September, but more and more red states are ending them in June or July instead.

Congressman Kevin Hern introduced legislation last week, the Help Wanted Act, that would end them nationwide two weeks after the bill's passage. He said critical industries are struggling to find workers.

"We are seeing it across home building, we’re seeing across agriculture, hospitality, and so we need to get people back to work; and so, what this Help Wanted Act does...is it ends the $300 unemployment," Rep. Hern, (R) OK-1, said in an interview.

Of the 23 states now planning to end the benefits early, four, including Oklahoma, are offering a monetary incentive to get people back to work, as well.