PA Chamber Statement on Call to Continue Additional $600 Weekly Unemployment Payments

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HARRISBURG, PA — PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement regarding proposals to extend the federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit paid in addition to regular state benefits.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and wide-ranging business shut down orders, employers were forced to lay off workers and Pennsylvania has seen a surge in unemployment compensation claims.

“We appreciate the work of our elected officials at both the state and federal level to aid employers and workers with various stimulus and grant programs in an attempt to stop a complete economic collapse.

“However, as businesses reopen, lawmakers must carefully balance efforts to restart the economy, the overall public health and getting individuals back to work.

“Throughout the re-opening process, we have heard repeatedly from our members that the additional $600 weekly unemployment compensation payment has served as a deterrent for employees to return to work and current safeguards do not sufficiently preclude misuse of the UC program.

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“This obviously imposes yet additional costs burdens on the state’s already strained UC system and further delays the economic recovery that is so desperately needed at this time.

“This point was further illustrated in a report issued last month by the Federal Reserve in which employers in the Third Federal Reserve District – which includes most of Pennsylvania – ‘noted difficulties attracting workers despite high unemployment rates.’

“Lawmakers are at a loggerhead on this particular aspect of emergency relief and rather than simply continuing to argue over an unrealistic extension of the $600 weekly payment, we encourage elected officials on the state and federal levels to work together to find common ground.

“Moreover, while policymakers are contemplating extending enhanced unemployment benefits they must also develop clear eligibility standards and address misperceptions that individuals may quit their job or refuse offers of suitable work in order to continue collecting benefits.”

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