Business/Economy, Coronavirus, Governor Polis, Mesa County, Uncategorized

Mesa County Commissioners urge an end to supplemental unemployment benefits

GRAND JUNCTION–  Mesa County Commissioners on Monday sent a letter to Governor Jared Polis urging an end to Colorado’s participation in a federal program paying supplemental benefits to Coloradans drawing unemployment, adding their voice to a growing call to end what some claim is federal dollars being used to essentially pay people not to work.

“As Mesa County’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide variety of job openings and workers are needed,” write Commissioners Janet Rowland, Scott McInnis and Cody Davis.  “These positions are currently not being filled due to supplemental weekly federal unemployment benefits.”

Mesa Commission letter: Click to enlarge

The supplemental payments, part of the federal government’s COVID pandemic relief efforts, add an extra $300 per week to those on unemployment, on top of the regular state payments as calculated by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).  The program is currently set to run through Sept. 6.  CBS reports that roughly half of American states have ended participation in the program in an effort to get residents to return to work.

The Mesa commissioners are not the first to urge an end to the program.  Members of Colorado’s Republican congressional delegation have also called on Polis to halt the payments. “Recent evidence has shown that this benefit in incentivizing workers to stay home and out of the workforce,” wrote Representatives Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Lauren Boebert in a June 10 letter to Polis.  The letter points to a Colorado Restaurant Association poll showing many eateries unable to hire enough staff for the summer season, with 65% of restaurateurs surveyed pointing to expanded unemployment benefits as the culprit.

As reported by the Gazette, Governor Polis flatly rejected the delegation’s request, saying the supplemental payments are both stimulating the economy and helping businesses emerge from the pandemic.

But as retired professor of economics Paul Prentice wrote in a recent Complete Colorado opinion piece, “Government payments in lieu of earned income may help some individuals in the short run, but it harms the economy as a whole in the long run. One dollar of supplemental unemployment does not have the same economic impact as one dollar of production-based earned income.”

Prentice continues “With supplemental benefits, many people receive more in unemployment than they earned in their previous job. And, although even more people receive less in unemployment than at their previous job, the differential at the margin is frequently not enough to incentivize a return to work.”

The Mesa commissioners give a nod to the value of the supplemental payments in the depth of the pandemic, but also note that the program no longer serves its intended purpose.  “We acknowledge the $300 weekly federal supplement has helped thousands of Coloradans make it through a difficult time and served a good purpose.  Now we need to get Coloradans back to work so that we can get our economy back to a healthy state.”

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