In an effort to increase jobs, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte declared that his state would be the first to discontinue participation in federal pandemic-related unemployment programmes.
“Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage,” the Republican governor said Tuesday in a press release.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montana posted a near pre-pandemic 3.8% unemployment rate in March, which is the latest data available.
However, Gianforte said Tuesday there has been a record number of new jobs statewide for a labor force that shrunk by some 10,000 workers despite an influx in new residents.
“Incentives matter and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” he said. “We need to incentivize Montanans to re-enter the workforce.”
According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, there are more than 14,000 jobs openings listed on its website.
To convince people to return to work, Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry announced it would stop all federal pandemic-related unemployment programs.
Montana will no longer issue $300 weekly supplemental payments under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation scheme beginning June 27, and it will no longer participate in the Pandemic Expanded Unemployment Insurance programme, which extended unemployment coverage past the usual 13 weeks to people who had expended traditional unemployment insurance benefits.
The state would now withdraw from other pandemic services, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which offers insurance to self-employed, underemployed, private workers, and others who have been unable to work due to illness or COVID-19.
Montana would replace it with a programme known as the Return-to-Work Bonus.
Those seeking unemployment insurance as of Tuesday will earn $1,200 if they find and hold a job for at least four weeks under the current programme.
“Our labor shortage doesn’t just affect employers and business owners,” said Laurie Esau, commissioner of Labor and Industry for the state. “Employees who are forced to work longer shifts, serve more customers or clients and take on more duties have been paying the price.”