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President Joe Biden on Monday said that anyone taking unemployment who gets offered a 'suitable job' must take it or lose their benefits after experts revealed that people making $32,000 before COVID could now earn more by staying at home.
'We're going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment, who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,' the president said in remarks at the White House.
'There are a few COVID-19 related exceptions, so that people aren't forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck, but otherwise, that's the law,' he added.
Biden didn't say specifically what he meant by a 'suitable job' but noted companies that 'provide fair wages and safe work environments' will 'find plenty of workers.'
And he dismissed claims people could earn more by staying home and collecting unemployment.
'Americans want to work,' he said.
'I think the people [who] claim Americans won't work, even if they find a good and fair opportunity, underestimate the American people,' he added.
To enforce the matter, Biden directed Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to issue a letter to states to reaffirm that individuals receiving unemployment benefits may not continue to receive benefits if they turn down a suitable job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19.
But this usually requires self-reporting, which can be unreliable.
Additionally, Walsh will work with states to reinstate work search requirements for unemployment recipients, if health and safety conditions allow - 29 states have already reinstated their work search requirements.
And, the administration said, 'workers may not misreport a COVID-related reason for unemployment.'
The administration noted in a fact sheet that acceptable reasons for turning down a job include that the worker has a child at home who cannot go to school because of the COVID pandemic or that the worker is offered a job at a worksite that is out of compliance with federal or state health requirements.
President Joe Biden said that anyone taking unemployment who gets offered a 'suitable job' must take it
The White House had to defend its extra unemployment benefits on Monday, arguing it was not the main factor keeping people from returning to the workforce. 'We don't see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the workforce,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her briefing
Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted a clip of Biden announcing that people will lose their benefits if they reject suitable jobs, and wrote: 'Turns out paying people more NOT to work isn’t such a great pro-work policy.'
Biden rejected calls by Republicans to cut the extra $300 weekly unemployment benefit passed under his COVID relief plan. That benefit expires in September.
'Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic, through no fault of their own,' Biden said, adding: 'For many of those folks, unemployment benefits are a lifeline.'
The White House had to defend its extra unemployment benefits on Monday, arguing it was not the main factor keeping people from returning to the workforce.
'We don't see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the workforce,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her briefing.
She blamed last week's disappointing jobs' report on other factors: lack of access to the coronavirus vaccine, schools remaining closed, childcare needs, and the need for a livable working wage.
The Labor Department reported on Friday that the US economy added 266,000 jobs in April, well below the 1 million jobs that most forecasters expected.
'The majority of economists, internally and externally of the White House, don't feel that unemployment insurance - something that was done at a time where, to help unemployed people get through a very difficult economic downturn, during a pandemic - is a major driver in our unemployment data, that there are other factors, bigger factors that were contributing,' Psaki said.