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Gov. Little ends Idaho’s participation in all federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) – Governor Brad Little announced Tuesday Idaho will end its participation in three federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs to help employers get workers back on the job.

“Employers are telling me one of the big reasons they cannot recruit and retain some workers is because those employees are receiving more on unemployment than they would while working. We see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere. Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation, and we are a top 10 state for best employment, but there is more we can do. It’s time to get back to work,” Governor Little said. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to a job.”

Effective June 19, 2021, the following federal programs will end in Idaho:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – provides an additional $300 weekly payment
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – benefits those who would not usually qualify for unemployment, such as the self-employed and others
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – extends benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted

The state unemployment rate in March was 3.2%, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. The rate was 2.7% in March of last year, but jumped to 11.6% in April after the coronavirus pandemic reached Idaho.

Mississippi will also stop accepting the weekly $300 supplemental unemployment benefits next month, and a handful of other states have similar plans.

The Idaho Chamber Alliance, representing chambers across the state, supports the decision.

"We feel that this is an important next step to helping businesses recover and we look forward to working with the Governor's Office as we seek ways to improve workforce availability for Idaho's businesses," Chip Schwarze, chairman of the Idaho Chamber Alliance, said in a statement.

Besides ending the three federal unemployment programs, the state in April reinstated a work search requirement, meaning those out of work and collecting unemployment benefits must look for full-time employment. That requirement had been lifted during the pandemic.

Idaho's minimum wage is $7.25, which adds up to $290 for a 40-hour week before taxes are taken out.

Labor experts say the shortage on a national level is not just about the $300 unemployment payment. Some unemployed people also have been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus. Others have found new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.

About 190,000 Idaho residents have been infected with the virus and more than 2,000 have died, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

But infections and deaths have been falling as more residents are vaccinated. State officials say that 540,000 of Idaho's 1.8 million residents are fully vaccinated, and about another 84,000 people having received the first dose of vaccines requiring two doses.

Anyone 16 and older can get vaccinated in Idaho.

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