State Rep. Adam Niemerg: Illinois needs to decouple from federal unemployment benefits | Columns

State Rep. Adam Niemerg: Illinois needs to decouple from federal unemployment benefits | Columns


Illinois is now fully open but all throughout the state there are numerous fast-food restaurants that still have closed dining rooms.

The reason the dining rooms are closed have nothing to do with health risks. It has everything to do with a labor shortage. They simply can’t get enough people to go back to work to reopen their dining rooms and they barely have enough staff to keep the drive thru open.

Illinois unemployed workers are still receiving the additional $300 in weekly pay from the federal government and so there is no incentive for them to return to work. It is simple economics. Why would anyone go back to work when they can earn more staying home?

It is time for Illinois to follow the lead of 25 other states and end the $300 extra pay for unemployment weekly benefits. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program for the additional $300 began Jan. 4, 2021 in Illinois and is set to expire on Sept. 4, 2021, but we need to end participation in this federal program before the September expiration date.

There simply is no need for the added benefits now that Illinois is fully open. We will not see a full economic recovery as long as workers are staying home rather than returning to the workforce.

The unemployment rate in Illinois is 7.1 percent while the unemployment rate nationally is 5.8 percent. We need Illinois workers to return to work. The longer we incentivize workers to stay home, the longer our road to recovery will be.

Economic growth and recovery are the result of productivity. We simply cannot fully recover from the impact of the economic lockdown of our economy as long as workers are not working.

Additionally, if Illinois continues to participate in the federal unemployment benefits program, we will be behind many surrounding states in terms of an economic comeback.

States such as Missouri and Iowa will no longer be eligible for the federal unemployment benefits program. The economies in those states will recover much more quickly than Illinois’ because their workers are returning to work.

Why do we want to willingly keep our economy from fully recovering especially since so many surrounding states are taking steps to accelerate their economic recovery?

By continuing to provide workers with the extra $300 per week, we are doing more than just delaying our economic recovery. We are putting our businesses in great peril. Many of our local businesses have been closed or only open at reduced capacity. These businesses have exhausted all of their cash reserves and need to be open at full capacity to survive.

These businesses have been waiting a long time to finally be at full capacity. So here they are able to be fully open, but they can’t get back to normal because they can’t hire enough people. If this situation is not fixed soon, we will see many of these businesses be forced to permanently close.

The unemployment benefits workers are receiving are not permanent, and neither are the jobs that are currently unfilled. The current situation is leading to more and more business closures and if we don’t act now, many of the jobs needing to be filled will simply disappear. What will workers do on Sept. 5 if they are no jobs waiting for them after their unemployment benefits run out?

If Gov. Pritzker truly cares about workers, he will end the additional unemployment benefits in Illinois immediately.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, represents the 109th House District.

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