Given the sheer breadth and depth of the economic carnage inflicted by government-mandated coronavirus shutdowns, it was absolutely necessary for the federal government to respond by temporarily expanding – and increasing – unemployment benefits in response. We were glad to see these provisions as a part of its $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.
Millions of Americans have been suddenly and unexpectedly left without work thanks to these shutdowns … and the worst could still be yet to come. Providing temporary assistance to those in need is an essential part of the recovery process.
Here is the question, though: In providing necessary assistance, how do we prevent this extension and expansion from outliving its usefulness? In other words, how do we keep it from morphing into something that actually harms the American economy – and hamstrings its recovery?
These are critical questions … and policymakers need to be mindful of them moving forward.
Rick Manning, one of our frequent contributors, is president of Americans for Limited Government (GetLiberty.org) – a conservative advocacy organization based out of Fairfax, Virginia. He is also a former official at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
According to Manning, “it is important that future federal unemployment spending be linked to those unemployment offices’ success in getting people back to work.”
We agree … but how?
Manning says states must assume “aggressive” roles in this process – transforming themselves from passive check dispensaries into active placement services.
“Too often, state unemployment offices serve merely as intermediary check dispensers to those who are unemployed, but in this new environment, with their knowledge of what jobs employees were laid off from, it is important that those states aggressively encourage workers to return to their jobs when they become available,” he noted.
The federal government’s role in the process? Incentivizing the states that are promoting an employment recovery, while dis-incentivizing the states intent on perpetuating dependency.
“Rather than rewarding those states with policies which encourage dependency and discourage re-employment with additional funding, federal dollars should be focused upon assisting those programs and states which are most effectively lowering the unemployment rate,” Manning opined. “This is not accomplished by throwing people off the rolls, but instead by putting those agencies’ energies into restoring the now-unemployed into the workforce.”
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“Our state workforce agencies know what jobs 22 million newly unemployed Americans lost, and truly serving their constituents means highlighting similar opportunities in their geographic area which open up as the economy restarts,” Manning (above) continued.
Embracing policies that get Americans back to work quickly is the department’s “highest function,” Manning said – and if it performs that function capably in the months to come (with cooperation from the states) “America can rapidly rebound” from the coronavirus crisis.
We concur …
Our nation clearly needed to take immediate action in response to an urgent economic need – which it has done. And it clearly must remain responsive to ongoing legitimate needs as this process continues to unfold. But just as the “coronavirus cure” should never have been allowed to become worse than the actual disease, we cannot permit necessary recovery efforts to devolve into permanent dependency-inducing policies.
States absolutely need to collaborate with the federal government to ensure that doesn’t happen …
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