EDITORIAL: It's time to reinstate work-search requirements for unemployed

York Dispatch editorial board
Many businesses are having difficulty finding workers.
  • Many businesses are having difficulty finding workers.
  • Some are blaming the current benefits offered to the unemployed.
  • Those benefits can make unemployment a better financial option than work.

The signs are nearly everywhere.

Many businesses are desperate for help, but they are having a difficult time finding it.

There are many reasons behind the worker shortage.

Some folks are having trouble finding the child-care help needed to return to the workforce.

Others aren’t yet vaccinated and fear getting COVID-19 if they return to work.

And some simply don’t want to go back to work because they can remain at home and collect unemployment checks that are equal to, or possibly higher, than the money they could earn by working.

It’s that latter scenario that should be of concern to both political parties. Actively choosing to remain unemployed, rather than work, because unemployment is a better financial alternative, can’t be sustained.

Biden weighs in: President Joe Biden has come to that realization.

Monday, the Democratic president said that those collecting unemployment benefits under the American Rescue Plan must accept "suitable" employment when offered. The statement was made in response to last week's underwhelming April jobs report.

"We're going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment, who was offered a suitable job, must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said.

He then added: "We don't see much evidence of that."

The Republican stance: Republicans would certainly disagree with that last statement. They claim the evidence is everywhere that potential employees are opting to stay unemployed because of the additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits that have been offered during the pandemic and the lack of a work-search requirement.

GOP wants to restore work-search rule for jobless benefits

The additional $300-per-week benefit extends through Sept. 6. Some states, however, have recently opted to cancel the federal bonus in an effort to motivate the unemployed to get back to work. That seems unreasonable, since the extra money has already been approved, but the extra benefit should not be extended beyond Sept. 6.

Possible Pennsylvania legislation: In Pennsylvania, lawmakers suspended the work-search requirement through 2020 amid the pandemic last year, and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, extended the waiver administratively into this year.

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Now, GOP legislators are advancing a bill to reinstate work-search requirements for people claiming unemployment benefits, after one survey showed that workers aren't taking open jobs at a record rate.

The bill cleared the House Labor and Industry Committee on a party-line vote last week.

Wolf has bipartisan opportunity: Wolf’s office did not say whether he supports or opposes the bill, only that he would review it should it pass the Legislature.

Wolf’s office also declined to say when he might reinstate the work-search requirement.

Well, this is one instance where Wolf should show some willingness to act in a bipartisan manner. If the bill makes it to his desk in a reasonable form, he should sign it.

Time to get back to work: Many employers are doing their best to lure workers back to jobs by boosting pay rates.

Now the unemployed must make a good-faith effort to get back to work. It’s good for our businesses, that need help if they are to keep their doors open. It’s good for our national debt, which is skyrocketing at an alarming rate. And, ultimately, it’s good for the unemployed themselves, who need real-world work experience to help them advance in their job careers.

We can debate about the true forces causing the worker shortage, but there is a shortage, and the unemployed should actively look for work, and if offered “suitable” employment, should accept the job.

That’s only way to maintain a productive economy.