U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the challenges Iowa employers are facing with getting employees back to work due to the enhanced federal unemployment dollars. Ernst called on the need for Congress, the Biden Administration, and state leaders across the country to take action and help get America up and running again.
Last week, Ernst applauded Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for curbing the additional federal unemployment benefits that have helped lead to this problem—and joined a bicameral effort to repeal them at the federal level.
Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:
“During my recent travels across Iowa on my 99 County Tour, I couldn’t help but notice the number of ‘Help Wanted’ or ‘Now Hiring’ signs on storefronts along nearly every highway and main street.
“In an era where we seem to live through one unprecedented occurrence after another, the dire jobs situation has become the latest extraordinary event as millions of Americans remain unemployed despite an abundance of jobs that need to be filled.
“In fact, the number of available jobs has reached an all-time record high: 8.1 million positions that need to be filled.
“44% of all small business owners have openings they cannot fill, another record.
“What makes this all the more stunning is that nation’s unemployment rate increased last month to 6.1%.
“There are now more than 9 million jobless Americans and nearly a third of those have been unemployed for a year or more.
“The jobs span a variety of occupations and locations in the state and employers are desperate to fill them.
“The Police Department of Iowa City is urgently trying to hire ten officers and is offering $5,000 signing bonuses to new recruits. I should note, another factor here could be the ongoing efforts to defund the police being pushed by folks on the left…
“The owner of the Blind Pig restaurant in Cedar Rapids is paying higher wages plus a $500 sign-on bonus, but even that isn’t enough to attract workers.
“He says in the past he would get up to 50 applicants when he placed a “help wanted” notice, but now he might get two—if he is lucky.
“So what gives?
“Part of the problem is that the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work.
“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.
“Similarly, 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.
“This may have made some sense a year ago when there was plenty of uncertainty, but due to the success of Operation Warp Speed, we now have vaccines; and COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are trending down.
“Despite thousands being out of work in Siouxland, local businesses can’t find the workers they need.
“The store manager of Sam’s Mini Mart says, ‘people come in here and say why work when I don’t have to, when unemployment’s going to pay me’ He goes onto to say ‘we’ve even upped our wages, our starting wages and nothing seems to work.’
“Paying people not to work is not helpful.
“It is delaying us from returning to normal pre-pandemic life.
“For our businesses in Iowa, normal means operating at full capacity.
“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, 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.
“It’s time for Congress, the Biden Administration, and state leaders across the country to do their jobs and help get America back to work.”