Federal Unemployment Aid Is Now a Political Lightning Rod – The New York Times

Most economists say there is no clear, single explanation yet for the difficulty that some employers are having in hiring. Government relief may play a role in some cases, but so could a lack of child care, continuing fears about infection, paltry wages, difficult working conditions and normal delays associated with reopening a mammoth economy.

The particular complaints that government benefits are sapping the desire to work have, nonetheless, struck a chord among Republican political leaders.

In Ms. Starr’s case, Ms. Reynolds’s move to end federal jobless relief in Iowa is likely to have its intended effect.

Ms. Starr can be counted among the long-term unemployed. She has relied on a mix of pandemic-related benefits since last spring, when she left her job as a delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza after co-workers started getting ill.

She could probably have already gotten her job back; Domino’s in Des Moines is advertising for drivers. But Ms. Starr has been reluctant to apply.

“A lot of people in Iowa don’t wear masks — they think that Covid is fake,” said Ms. Starr, who worries not only about her own susceptibility to infection but also about the health of her 71-year-old father, whom she helps care for: He has emphysema, diabetes and heart troubles.

An early withdrawal from the federal government’s network of jobless relief programs affects everyone in the state who collects unemployment insurance. Ms. Starr, like all recipients, will lose a weekly $300 federal stipend that was designed to supplement jobless benefits, which generally replace a fraction of someone’s previous wage. In most of the states, the decision will also end Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers freelancers, part-timers and self-employed workers who are not normally eligible for unemployment insurance. And it will halt Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which continues paying people who have exhausted their regular allotment.

In addition to the $300 supplement, Ms. Starr gets $172 a week in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The total is about $230 less than she earned at her previous job. The government checks pay for her rent, food and some of her father’s medicine, she said.

Ms. Starr, who is vaccinated, said the governor’s order would probably force her to go back to work despite her health fears. She is thinking about some kind of customer service job from her home, although that would require her to buy a laptop and maybe get landline telephone service, she said. Absent that, she said, she may have to take another delivery job or work in an office.

Whether her case is evidence that ending jobless benefits early makes sense depends on one’s perspective.