116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There are thousands of individual stories among Iowans receiving federal pandemic unemployment benefits.
The pandemic, which is not over, has forced many to reevaluate what work they can do, where they want to do it and what’s important. Maybe they still lack needed child care. Maybe they caught the coronavirus and are still stricken with long-term effects. Maybe jobs that offer no sick leave or decent benefits are less attractive after COVID-19 waves left them vulnerable. Yes, there are jobs, but opportunities are spread unevenly across Iowa.
It’s complicated, as our lives often are in these interesting times. But Gov. Kim Reynolds has decided to simplify the narrative. These Iowans actually are lazy freeloaders who would rather get unemployment benefits than work. Never mind that the law requires them to look for work.
So the governor this week announced the state will no longer administer federal emergency unemployment benefits tied to the pandemic. The benefits were supposed to run through September, but Reynolds is cutting them off in June.
Her reasoning is that employers say they can’t find workers. I’ve heard the stories, too. And no doubt the labor market is tight. But blaming it all on federal benefits is a simplistic, knee-jerk reaction that will harm thousands of Iowans. It’s tough love without love.
It may also be counterproductive. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that unemployed people tend to look more intensely for employment while on benefits than they do after benefits run out. But why look at data? This is about politics.
Reynolds is again following the red state playbook. Iowa joins Missouri, Tennessee, Wyoming, Arkansas, Mississippi and others in cutting off federal benefits. She went on Fox News Tuesday night to tout her latest triumph and collect a Laura Ingraham merit badge.
Add unemployed people to the list of red state threats along with transgender kids, renters using federal vouchers and absentee voters.
Again, I get that employers need employees. But with this Republican regime in Iowa there is never any sense of balance when it comes to workers.
President Joe Biden has offered to work with states to make sure those receiving benefits are looking for work. Reynolds, instead, decided to cut off benefits. I mean, did the guy even really win?
When Republicans could have made rational adjustments to collective bargaining for public workers, they instead gutted bargaining rights and threw up barriers to unions. When Branstad-Reynolds took over, the former governor tried to shove the state’s workers’ compensation commissioner out of office by cutting his pay, in an attempt to please business interests. Republicans have since made major changes to workers’ compensation laws that make it harder for injured workers to collect benefits.
When hundreds of packing plant workers contracted the coronavirus, and some died, Reynolds turned a blind eye and let the plant managers handle it. We can’t even talk about raising the minimum wage, stagnant for more than a decade. Wage theft from workers isn’t a real problem, according to Republicans, except that it is.
On the other side of the ledger are the billions of dollars in tax cuts, credits and exemptions we’ve passed over the last 30 years, many aimed at helping businesses. Then there are the incentives the state hands out while chasing server farms. And the jets the governor has borrowed.
But, oddly, this punishment-reward economic policy has left us short of workers. Out-migration of our young people continues. What can be done? And what’s next?
Tune into Fox News for more details.
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