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Legislators applaud Little's decision to end programs

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Hagadone News Network | May 13, 2021 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — North Idaho legislators are among those applauding Gov. Brad Little's decision to end Idaho's participation in all federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs.

In making the announcement Tuesday, Little said effective June 19, the state would no longer participate in the three programs aimed at helping employers get workers back on the job.

“Employers are telling me one of the big reasons they cannot recruit and retain some workers is because those employees are receiving more on unemployment than they would while working. We see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere. Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation, and we are a top 10 state for best employment, but there is more we can do. It’s time to get back to work,” Little said. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to a job.”

Applauding the move were state Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, and state Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay.

The decision was the right move, Woodward said.

"A lot of people have been talking to me about the difficulty of finding employees because folks are opting to stay on unemployment," Woodward said. "I think the governor’s action here is appropriate and necessary."

Dixon said he was glad to see Little's announcement, saying several legislators have been talking to the governor about ending the program.

"[We] have been hearing from employers throughout the state about the difficulty it has caused them in finding workers," Dixon said. "Ending the program in Idaho should help our businesses and economy continue to recover."

As of June 19, three of the four federal programs — the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation — will end in the state. FPUC added an additional $300 weekly payment, PUA offered benefits to those who didn't normally qualify for unemployment, such as those who are self-employed, and PEUC extended benefits once regular benefits were exhausted.

Idaho is one of three states which chose not to participate in the fourth, the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation unemployment program, which provided an additional $100 benefit to some people on top of the weekly payment.

Idaho recently reinstated its pre-pandemic work search requirements for unemployment insurance claimants to help get workers back on the job. The work search requirement, which was lifted during the pandemic, means Idahoans who are out of work and collecting unemployment benefits must look for full-time employment. The requirement was reinstated in April.

“The current labor shortage in Idaho has created significant challenges for our businesses. So many employees in our industry have left the workforce and we aren't sure when or if they will come back," said Stephanie Camarillo of Molly Maid in Meridian and NFIB member.

"Workers seem to chase money, whether it is from the government or other employers that keep raising wages. We work hard to be an outstanding employee-centered business and we compensate our people well. But, the current environment is making it difficult to run operations smoothly. We have had to turn down lots of business because we don't have the people to deliver services and I fear that if not dealt with, there will be lasting effects."

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Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle

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Dixon