Sherrill bill would allow workers to keep $180 a week in unemployment as incentive to find work

Should workers claiming unemployment benefits still be able to collect $180 a week in benefits after finding a job? U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill thinks so.

The incentive is a feature of the New Workers Act — bipartisan legislation Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) hopes will incentivize workers to seek employment.

“The expansion of unemployment insurance during the darkest days of the pandemic was critical to keeping millions of families out of poverty and sustaining our economy,” Sherrill said. “In order to help reopen businesses and speed up our economic recovery this summer, we must make sure we don’t disincentivize workers from returning to work. Our approach must support businesses looking to hire as they reopen, while also taking care of the workers who continue to face challenges to returning to work related to the pandemic.”

The New Workers Act, co-sponsored by representatives from Virginia and Michigan, is beginning to attract support from numerous business and labor groups. It has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the state chambers of New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan, among other groups.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the idea has merit.

“America’s great economic resurgence is being held back by an unprecedented workforce shortage — and it’s getting worse,” he said. “However, new polling data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows hiring bonuses are an effective instrument to encourage more unemployed Americans to return to work. We commend Reps. Sherrill, (Abigail) Spanberger and (Peter) Meijer for introducing a bipartisan approach to addressing this very real workforce issue.”

David French, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation, agreed.

“Our members applaud your bipartisan collaboration on this piece of legislation that seeks to address one of the most pressing issues facing our economy. We look forward to working with you to achieve its passage,” he said. “Incentives matter, and your legislation points workers back to work in the most constructive possible way.”

Tom Bracken, the CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the worker issue is having dramatic impact.

“The fact that businesses are struggling to find workers is a significant impediment to generating the full and robust post-pandemic economic rebound we all want,” he said. “Getting people back to work must be a top and an immediate priority. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce supports Rep. Sherrill’s recently introduced legislation as a realistic and business-friendly approach to solving this problem.”

Michele Siekerka, the CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, agreed.

“The provisions in the Newly Employed Worker Allowance legislation strike an important balance in incentivizing employees to return to work in a timely fashion, while not losing income as they do so,” she said. “We have heard untold stories from our member businesses as they struggle to hire post-pandemic, even while attempting to raise wages and offering other incentives. We believe this bill will help those employers hire as they look to emerge from this labor shortage and fully reopen.”