LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes Kentucky would be in better shape if Gov. Andy Beshear ended $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits.
"There's no question that is creating a big challenge for Kentucky businesses post-pandemic," McConnell said after a roundtable discussion with Louisville business leaders Monday.
Less than one week ago, Beshear announced a new incentive program that will provide $1,500 to the first 15,000 Kentucky residents who reenter the workforce between June 24 and July 30.
Beshear said he was not ready to end $300 unemployment checks due to their positive impact on Kentucky's economy, and said there are other factors, like child care problems, that are causing people not to return to work.
"I want to make sure we can thread the needle," Beshear said. "Get the people back to work — not punish people in the middle of the summer who don't have other child care options, but get employers the workers they need — and additional workers will be available as school starts back up again."
McConnell said Beshear's incentive program is "more of the same," saying giving people more money to come back is "part of the inherent problem."
"I think the simplest way to do it, it's working in 25 other states — in Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio — [is] discontinue the bonus, and I think you'll see significant numbers of people interested in going back to work," McConnell said.
Gov. Holcomb withdrew Indiana from federal programs in June. AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies called the decision "cruel and unnecessary," and a Marion County court ruled Indiana will immediately resume participating in CARES Act benefits while considering a lawsuit against Holcomb's decision.
McConnell did agree child care issues have impacted the state's, and nation's, workforce problems. He said getting kids back to school will greatly help, and said cutting off the $300 checks would be "extremely helpful" in bringing child care centers more employees.
During his incentive announcement, Beshear also said the state has received more than $763 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide relief for the state's child care providers.
Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., took part in the roundtable discussion and said finding the workforce for child care centers is one of their biggest concerns.
After the governor's incentive announcement, Davasher-Wisdom said GLI was encouraged by the return-to-work incentive and increased funding to help the child care sector, but also pushed for Beshear to end $300 checks.
"We also continue to urge the Beshear administration to opt out of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation before the current September expiration date to ensure our businesses have the staffing needed to fully reopen and rebound from a challenging year," Davasher-Wisdom said.
The extra $300 ends nationwide Sept. 6. According to worker advocacy group the National Employment Law Project, the decision by dozens of states to drop weekly federal unemployment benefits will sharply reduce aid for roughly 4.7 million people.