The state does not intervene to fill the void of unemployment benefits
BOSTON (SHNS) – As legislative hearings on how best to spend billions in federal aid are set to resume on Thursday, leading Democrats in Beacon Hill signaled this week that they did not intend to intervene to allocate funds to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed who lost access to expanded federal unemployment benefits this week.
Three major emergency unemployment insurance programs expired on September 6, leaving more than 7 million people nationwide and about 330,000 people in Massachusetts without access to the benefits that helped them through the pandemic. Rosalyn Acosta, Gov. Charlie Baker’s senior labor official, described it as “a fall off the cliff,” and recently said the administration was doing everything it could to connect people with jobs.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh wrote a letter in mid-August to House Ways and Means Speaker Richard Neal and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden recalling to Congress that ARPA funds could be used by states to pursue certain expanded benefit programs. The two Cabinet officials specifically mentioned the possibility for states to continue providing additional weeks of assistance to the long-term unemployed and the special program for workers in the odd-job economy who are not traditionally eligible for benefits. unemployment.
The Washington Post, however, reported over the weekend that of the 24 states where federal benefits were maintained as long as possible, none indicated that they intended to use the money from the ‘ARPA to extend benefits, or “said the decision to do so was up to their state legislatures. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law giving the legislature control of the $ 4.8 billion remaining APRA funds.
The press service asked both Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Speaker of the Senate Karen Spilka whether there had been any consideration of using ARPA funding to continue increasing unemployment benefits beyond of their expiration on September 6.
“Public hearings on how best to spend American Rescue Plan Act funding are underway. We look forward to reviewing the comments and ideas obtained during the process so that we can take the best action to take as our recovery continues, ”a spokesperson for Senate Speaker Karen Spilka told the News Service. .
A House spokesperson offered a similar response: “Our committees continue to review all uses of the American Rescue Plan Act as we conduct the public process of allocating funds. Work and workforce development have been among the topics already discussed in hearings with experts and the public, and we expect these to remain a priority as the process continues. . ”
Massachusetts posted an unemployment rate of 4.9% in July and the federal government announced on Wednesday that the number of job openings in the United States had risen from 749,000 to 10.9 million by the end of July, a number which labor statistics officials called a “high series”.