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Calls to end KY federal pandemic UI benefits continue, back-to-work bonuses proposed

Published: May. 28, 2021 at 9:54 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As coronavirus cases drop and restrictions are lifted in Kentucky, calls for an end to pandemic unemployment benefits are starting to grow.

Some are putting forth ideas like back-to-work bonuses as a replacement.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce penned a letter to Governor Andy Beshear, (D) Kentucky, asking him to phase out the commonwealth’s participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

It provides an extra $300 per week to those who are unemployed and meet requirements.

Outside of the business-group, others are also concerned that could be keeping businesses from hiring.

“It’s wrong when a private employer has to compete against the government on wages,” Ryan Quarles, the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, said.

Quarles suggests the state end participation in the federal program and institute a back-to-work bonus incentive instead.

“I think it’s a unique and creative way to help phase out a program that wasn’t meant to be there permanently, but also encourage Kentuckians to get back to work and provide a financial incentive to do so,” Quarles said.

The commissioner said, in Arizona, for those making under $25 an hour, a similar program offers bonuses up to $2,000 when hired and working for some time.

“If you really want economic development, lets get people to renter the workforce, start making things, start working at restaurants and start building up the gross domestic product of Kentucky,” Quarles said.

Beshear, when asked if he’d end the program in the state, expressed concern about pulling out too quickly.

“It means we’ve got to thread the needle to make sure we do not shock our system too early,” Beshear said.

He stated the consensus is also mixed as to whether pulling the federal assistance will drive people back to jobs as some expect.

The governor added that industries such as grocery stores, restaurants and retailers are benefiting from the additional payments.

“Consumer spending is one of the life bloods of our economy and certainly our economic resurgence,” Beshear said. “Those extra payments are $34 million coming into the commonwealth every week, just about all of which is being spent. The number one place its being spent is on groceries.”

A work search requirement for receiving unemployment benefits in Kentucky was reinstituted earlier this month.

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