There’s no doubt about it: it’s been a long year. Just ask any small business, restaurant, or other employer across our state. Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Because of Operation Warp Speed, we now have vaccines; and COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are trending down. In Iowa, folks are ready to return to “normal life,” and for our businesses, that means operating at full capacity.
For Iowa’s employers, fully reopening means a complete workforce and making up for lost revenue—and it’s critical that they are able to do so as soon as possible.
As I’ve met with folks across the state, they’ve consistently shared the challenges they’re experiencing in finding the workers needed to get back up and running. That’s what happens when the government pays people more money to stay at home than to go to work. Look no further than the disappointing jobs report released last Friday. We were anticipating close to one million new jobs, and we only gained around 266,000.
I’ve heard from restaurant owners in Bellevue who need about 36 employees between their two locations, and can only find 20. They’ve been forced to suspend plans to expand, costing additional jobs and stifling economic development. And they’re not alone: the owner of a small business in Cedar Rapids that offers good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree was turned down by three separate people because they chose to stay on unemployment instead. I’ve also heard from folks who run in-home care services in West Des Moines and Cedar Rapids about their difficulties hiring providers for their professional care teams. Again, this is all due in large part to the federal government’s excessive unemployment perks.
If we’re going to begin erasing the damages caused by the last year of the pandemic and get our economy moving again, we cannot continue to let Democrats dis-incentivize work. Thankfully in Iowa, our great Governor Kim Reynolds has already taken steps to curb the excessive federal unemployment that has kept Iowans on the sidelines and created these challenges for our employers.
Now, we need to do more nationwide. As a senior member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I’m helping to lead a bicameral effort to end the enhanced perks at the federal level. The Get Americans Back to Work Act, which I helped put forward this week, decreases the extra federal unemployment benefits to $150 per week at the end of this month, and then fully repeals them at the end of June.
As I saw last week on my 99 County Tour, and as I’ve heard from a number of my colleagues, “Help Wanted” signs are plastered on front doors and window panes all across our main streets. We’re on the verge of beating this pandemic, but we can’t have the federal government get in the way of our recovery. Congress, the Biden Administration, and state leaders across the country should be focused on doing all they can to help get folks back to work and get our businesses up and running once again.