Last month, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported that 46% of small businesses currently have unfilled job openings. Our country is still down 7.1 million jobs from our pre-lockdown boom, and 9.5 million jobs remain unfilled nationwide.
While well-intentioned, the federal government’s enhanced unemployment benefit of $300 extra dollars each week has incentivized workers to stay at home and not get back into the workforce. Essentially, these additional payments constitute a “stay-at-home bonus.”
Based on these facts, Republican governors across the U.S. have stopped accepting the extra bonus funding from the federal government. However, North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper refused this straightforward solution and intends to keep paying North Carolinians to stay home until September.
Given that Gov. Cooper will not end the additional unemployment payments altogether, I introduced a solution in Congress that would help. It’s called the Back to Work Bonus Act. Instead of paying folks a $300 per week bonus to stay home until September, my bill would end these payments and provide a $900 one-time bonus to a worker who gets back into the workforce before Aug. 14. The cost of the bonuses would be taken from already appropriated unemployment funding, creating a net-cost savings to the taxpayer. Bottom line: My proposal would convert the current stay-at-home bonus into a back-to-work bonus. If our governor won’t remove a bad incentive, I want to reverse it.
My bill is a specific solution to a specific problem. We simply cannot continue to pay people to stay home. For workers who stayed in the workforce throughout the pandemic, I want to cut their taxes so they get to keep more of their own hard-earned money. I want to get the economy booming again like it was during the Trump years. I’m working to stop the overspending in Washington that causes inflation to soar and eat away at a family’s buying power. But above all, our No. 1 priority needs to be getting folks back to work as quickly as possible.
I’m proud to say that key North Carolina stakeholders have signed onto my plan. The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association represents our state’s $27.3 billion hospitality industry. They endorsed my bill saying, “the labor shortage in North Carolina has reached critical levels and restaurants are having to shut their dining rooms for days, not due to restrictions but rather to lack of staff. The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association supports Rep. Budd’s Back to Work Bonus Act to help encourage and incentivize as many people as possible to safely return to work.”
Greater Winston-Salem, Inc., a collaborative coalition of economic stakeholders in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, also endorsed the Back to Work Bonus, saying, “We believe this legislation can speed up our economic recovery, encourage individuals to reenter the workforce, and keep our region moving forward while ensuring that families have the resources they need.”
As summer heats up, we have to continue to ensure that economic prosperity is available to everyone, starting with getting folks back to work. All of the good intentions and government spending in the world cannot replace the productivity and dignity of a job. I will continue to do my part in Washington, D.C. to get more North Carolinians back on the job as quickly as possible.
Rep. Ted Budd represents the 13th Congressional District.