PAGE – The Page City Council, after listening to COVID-19 response presentations by local, county and state officials, was asked if they had any questions.
Mayor Levi Tappan, pointing out the elephant in the room, said, “I do have one, small question. Businesses are starting to come to me and say that they’re ready to open, they’re ready to hire, but the staff is wanting to stay on unemployment rather than come back to work.”
Tappan asked, “Do you know how we’re going to convince people that they should be working and not on unemployment?”
Kendra Robinson, northern regional manager of Arizona @Work replied, “We actually have that problem all across the state as well and that’s something that we’re facing every day.”
She added, “We have, right now, 56,000 job openings across the state and we only have 75 registered job seekers.”
When COVID hit, the requirements for receiving unemployment loosened. Recipients were not required to seek jobs. Robinson said, “They don’t have to do weekly reports. With that extra $600 they’re paying, that’s really equal to $20 an hour. So, it’s very hard for people to go back to work at a $12 to $13 an hour job when they can sit home and get $20.”
Robinson said they are trying to make sure those on unemployment understand the money will run out July 25. She said, “That $600 will go away …. Also, at that point, they’re going to be required to job seek.”
James Kerr, rural vice president of Arizona Commerce Authority said, “They’re going to start penalizing people. If they choose not to go back, the employer can document it, especially from the side where they’re trying for full PPE forgiveness. PPP refers to the CARES ACT Paycheck Protection Program distributed by the Small Business Administration. Businesses can have all or part of their SBA loans forgiven if the funds are used for payroll expenses.”
Kerr said, “The biggest thing is the employers tell the employees, ‘Listen, this runs out. Not only that but your state’s going to run out too. The state’s going to start billing you for fraudulently collecting unemployment.’ It’s going to be a catch-22.”
Kerr adds, “It’s going to get ugly.” Kerr predicts within a month, “You’re going to see an onslaught of applications.”
Congress is currently hashing out another stimulus bill. While the House wants to continue the additional $600 unemployment benefit, the Senate’s bill wants to reduce it considerably. One of the concerns voiced prior to of rushing the CARES ACT through was the unemployment benefits.