House Republicans: Halt $300 extra weekly jobless benefit

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May 20—Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday to do away with a supplemental $300-a-week federal employment benefit to encourage jobless New Mexicans to return to work.

The Republican leaders asked the governor to rescind the extra $300 that unemployed workers are receiving "as soon as possible" and create in its place what they called a "one-time $1,200 return-to-work bonus once an unemployed worker has been on the job for a month."

"We believe both actions will greatly encourage New Mexicans to reenter the job market and significantly help the thousands of small businesses and other employers across our state who are trying to address an ongoing labor shortage," House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend of Artesia, Minority Whip Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington and caucus Chairwoman Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences wrote in a letter to the governor.

"We have heard from employers across the state that the extra unemployment benefit is adversely affecting their ability [to] find good people who are willing to work and have resulted in them not being able to meet customer demands for goods and services," they wrote.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor's press secretary, said the office didn't have a comment on the letter because it hadn't yet received it by Wednesday afternoon.

"As you know, the state recently reinstated the work search requirement for unemployment insurance benefits," Sackett wrote in an email. "The state continues to work closely with businesses to ensure they have the tools to facilitate a successful reopening and build a strong and sustainable recovery that benefits all New Mexicans."

A number of states plan to drop the supplemental payment as part of an effort to push the unemployed back into the workforce. According to the House Republicans' letter, 21 states have announced plans to end the extra payment "sometime this summer" and create new incentives for people to return to work.

In some instances, people receiving unemployment benefits say they're making more money now than when they had a job.

"While the extra $300 per week benefit served a useful purpose during the height of the pandemic when employers were not rehiring, now that the New Mexico economy is beginning to recover in a post-pandemic environment, the extra benefit is creating an economic disincentive for people to stay at home and not return to work," House Republican leaders wrote in their letter to the governor. "Now is the perfect time to rescind this extra benefit and provide a return-to-work bonus as there are countless 'Help Wanted' signs throughout New Mexico which are going unanswered."

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.