Saturday, April 17, NBC News had a disturbing report. They reported that more jobs are available right now than prior to the pandemic but few people are applying for them. Why? I think people are currently receiving so much money in unemployment benefits they don’t see the need to work. (To be fair, other pandemic-related reasons offered in a separate April 15 NBC segment could include a fear of returning to frontline work while the pandemic is still present, or a difficulty in finding – or affording -- childcare.)
In their story, NBC News reported on a business offering jobs paying $14 to $16 per hour but had no takers. They said Walmart and other businesses are struggling to find part time employees.
Restaurants are especially hurting. I have seen it happening here in Fauquier. I have spoken to some restaurant general managers who are closing their dining areas and doing drive-thru only while others are closing entirely one or two days per week because they don’t have sufficient staff to be open seven days a week.
According to NBC reporter Stephanie Ruhle, many unemployed workers are receiving about $600 per week in unemployment benefits, thanks to state and federal money. This is the equivalent of about $15 per hour, more than most would make by going back to work.
I think we can all understand why people would stay away from working if they can make more money not working. This is essentially retirement mode.
Ruhle said four states have started requiring residents to prove they are looking for work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits and four others are about to do so. Virginia was not included on their list, but the Virginia Mercury reported the change is coming, although no specifics are provided when this requirement will take effect. (https://www.fauquier.com/news/virginia-to-reinstate-work-search-requirement-for-unemployment-recipients/article_bc79c694-97e4-11eb-8f7c-1b0074a7ba3b.html).
If guesstimates are correct, the country may be back to some semblance of “normal” in a few months but it won’t make any difference if businesses don’t have enough employees to handle the increased workload at that time. Let’s be honest - many businesses are struggling right now to handle their current workload. They will probably struggle to handle additional customers if they must do so at current staffing levels.
This country lost many businesses and jobs permanently in the last year due to mandatory shutdowns but few of these shutdowns remain in effect today. Most businesses are currently open to customers in some capacity. It would be a shame to see Virginia permanently lose more businesses if potential workers see no need to take jobs because they are doing fine financially while not working. Let’s put these people back to work so our businesses can thrive again.
It’s time to turn of the unemployment benefits spigot as it is currently being used because it’s no longer needed. Virginia and all states need to return using unemployment benefits as intended - only to those looking for work but can’t find any. Since millions of jobs are currently available, this will probably be a challenge.
Gov. [Ralph] Northam will probably declare Virginia “100% open” in the next few months. However, if he doesn’t stop unemployment benefits now for those who could be working, he will find Virginia much worse off than it is today. Customers will flock to stores; restaurants and bars that won’t have the staff to handle the increased business because people they would gladly hire are sitting home drawing unemployment benefits instead.
Soon eight states will be preparing for 100% reopening by requiring their residents drawing unemployment benefits to apply for available jobs or give up their unemployment benefits. Virginia needs to be the ninth. It’s in everyone’s best interest.