RALEIGH On Friday dozens of Republican state lawmakers signed a letter calling on Governor Roy Cooper to re-implement work search requirements for those receiving unemployment benefits. Later Friday afternoon, in a rare bit of expeditious throughput, Cooper signed an executive order making it so.
“Unemployment benefits have provided a critical lifeline for many North Carolinians living on the edge due to the pandemic. As our state emerges from the pandemic, we want to help people safely return to work as soon as possible. Reinstating the work search guidelines will help connect claimants with employers, resources and tools to help them return to the workforce,” said Cooper in a statement.
The free ride is over, basically. Lest you think this is some weird veneer of Cooper’s conservatism, though, it seems much more plausible that defending an open-ended and plush free ride amid employer staffing troubles was no longer politically advantageous. And clearly so, as he expeditiously made the change at the first sign of public pressure.
Ever since the first declared COVID-related state of emergency and the onset of Pandemic Panic policies, a person filing for unemployment did not provide any evidence that they were so much as looking for work. What’s more, the extraordinary supplemental benefits created an incentive structure to pass up interviews and non-ideal job offers to remain on the dole. Fast forward to ‘reopening’ and employers report that finding workers is like pulling teeth; they just can’t compete with free money.
With the new executive order that structure is changed fundamentally, if only by a few degrees, and will hopefully encourage more transitions back into the workforce among those hesitant to return to working for a living. Yet, there is more to Cooper’s order encouraging that transition, and it’s more consistent with the helicopter money approach Democrats (and misguided Republicans) have been taking of late:
North Carolina stands to accrue nearly $14 billion in federal funds related to COVID legislation, on top of an extant $5 billion surplus. The insightful think we should give much of that money back, but Cooper and select politicians have a more predictable, and objectionable, plan for such money – spend it!
They want to pay claimants thousands in bonus money for accepting a job they may have been turning down for the last three months. The person that took the lowly job in 2020 to make ends meet, swallowing their pride to support their family, taking nothing that wasn’t earned and entitled to nothing but their initiative and hard work? Nothing. In fact, the taxes that worker paid over the last year is what will precisely be leveraged to pay the extra bonus to the person refusing work in favor of government checks all this time.
This idea actually has traction among at least one Republican NC House member as well, perhaps owing to the pressure felt from employers who simply cannot find enough employees to service a ‘full reopening.’ Hopefully the majority steers the State far away from such a policy that subtly rewards dependency while adding insult to injuries sustained by each and every citizen that took responsibility for themselves over the last year by accepting work they might have previously found unworthy.