President Highlights Ways to Help Rebuild the Workforce

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Business owner wearing a facemask and reopening his cafe

President Joe Biden called on employers to encourage people who are unemployed to get back to work by helping them get vaccinated, reviewing pay practices and providing a safe work environment. 

"We need to stay focused on creating jobs and beating this pandemic today and building back better for tomorrow," he said during a press conference on May 10.

Biden noted the disappointing news that April's unemployment rate increased to 6.1 percent from 6 percent in March. However, he thinks the overall trend line shows that the country is headed in the right direction. "I never said … that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate or perfectly steady."

Biden highlighted the following steps that his administration is taking to help rebuild the workforce:

  • Opening a portal for state and local governments to apply for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which can be used to hire back public-sector workers such as educators and first responders.
  • Delivering assistance to restaurants and bars around the country that have suffered during the pandemic.
  • Reminding employers of certain benefits and credits that are available to them if they hire back workers, maintain employment levels and provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
  • Providing help to people who are struggling with child care needs so they can get back to work.
  • Making it clear that workers who are collecting unemployment benefits and are offered suitable employment must accept the job or lose the benefits, with some exceptions. 

"No one should be able to game the system, and we will insist the law is followed," Biden said with regard to collecting unemployment benefits, though he noted that such benefits have been "a lifeline" to many people during the pandemic. Twenty-two million Americans lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We still have 8 million fewer jobs than we did when the pandemic started," he said.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

The Employer's Role

Biden said the administration is taking steps to help employers hire new workers and make it easier for people to get back to work. He said companies should help employees get vaccinated and provide a safe work environment. "We also need to recognize that people will come back to work if they're paid a decent wage," he said.

(The New York Times)

Job Creation in April Disappoints

U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs in April, falling well short of the 1 million jobs economists were expecting, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1 percent, the first increase of that measure since early in the pandemic, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The disappointing employment numbers have led to various explanations for what's going on in the labor market. Many employers, particularly in restaurants, retail and hospitality, have reported little response to job ads. Some observers, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pointed out that the federal government's temporary emergency pandemic relief programs and augmented jobless benefits are keeping people in these hard-hit industries at home. On the other hand, the labor force grew, which argues against the idea that unemployment checks are keeping people out of the workforce. 

(SHRM Online)

Reaffirming Unemployment Benefits Rules

The White House clarified the rules for collecting unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. "Anyone receiving UI who is offered a suitable job must take it or lose their UI benefits," according to a press statement. "A core purpose of the UI program is helping workers get back to work, and UI provides laid-off workers with temporary assistance to help pay bills and relieve hardship. By reaffirming these rules and purposes, the administration will ensure that the UI program continues to support workers and facilitate hiring." During the press conference, Biden noted that people who are unemployed do not have to accept a job that compromises their safety during the pandemic.

(The White House)

Child Care Aid

Through ARPA, the administration allotted $39 billion for states to assist struggling child care providers and also help parents get back to work. States can provide direct subsidies to help families cover their child care expenses, and child care providers can use funds to pay expenses related to their rent or mortgage, insurance, utility bills, payroll, and COVID-19-related debt. Money can also be used to purchase personal protective equipment or set up workplace safety measures.

(CNN)

American Jobs Plan

ARPA is a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that provides tax credits to employers, expanded federal unemployment benefits to workers and more small-business aid. Biden said ARPA is just the starting point, and the next stage involves an eight-year strategy under his American Jobs Plan. In March, Biden released his blueprint for the $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, which includes a call for strengthening unions; job-training measures; and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. 

(SHRM Online)

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