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 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 [has] 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.

(5) comments

Jim Klukkert

The Republican governors of Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina, taking their cue from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will block the Federal contribution of $300/week towards unemployment benefits in their states. They believe American workers are getting too much money during the Global Pandemic. I believe too many workers have been getting too little for too long.

American workers of moderate means are basically staging a General Strike for a real living wage; guarantees of safety; a future of some solvency, including a pension or real Social Security; health care and other compensations, worthy of the modern citizens who are critical members of the 21st century workforce.

Workers of moderate means have suddenly seized some increased agency regarding the conditions of their employment. As the Global Pandemic has made obvious, these workers are fundamental to our economy and our way of life. Front line workers and others previously earning only menial wages with little hope for their future, have a well earned, new sense of self-worth.

Though front line workers may not require extensive education or training to do their jobs, the worth of their service is directly tied to society’s basic needs for critical services. If we want those needs met and those services provided, we must provide a worthwhile career compensation that affords all workers a good life now, and a good life long into the future.

After a year of reflection, it seems obvious that many American workers are demanding a fair day’s living wage, safe working conditions, and jobs with a future worth working towards, before they will rush back to work.

George Welland

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George Welland

The real story is Republicans shill for employers and their lobbyists, the former which prefer profits over people and won't pay a living wage (I think a $300 federal bonus works out to about the federal minimum wage for 40 hours of work and much less than the New Mexico state minimum wage).

Michael Kiley

The state GOP by calling for the Governor to end the $300 pandemic relief payment early is asking her to violate federal law, and would threaten the existence of the unemployment program itself, which is to say, normal GOP irresponsibility and noise. The US Code says in part 42 U.S. Code § 503 - State laws "(a) Provisions required..." and that noncompliance is cause to stop unemployment funding by the US Secretary of Labor. The Governor does and should ignore this noise. Instead, state lawmakers should investigate threats and attacks against UI offices and the former Secretary of Workforce Solutions.

The Secretary of Labor shall make no certification for payment to any State unless he finds that the law of such State, approved by the Secretary of Labor under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act [26 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.], includes provision for—

(1) Such methods of administration (including after January 1, 1940, methods relating to the establishment and maintenance of personnel standards on a merit basis, except that the Secretary of Labor shall exercise no authority with respect to the selection, tenure of office, and compensation of any individual employed in accordance with such methods) as are found by the Secretary of Labor to be reasonably calculated to insure full payment of unemployment compensation when due

George Welland

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