SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah is turning away federal money — $1,200 per month for unemployed individuals — over concerns that extra aid is is providing an incentive not to work.
The pandemic unemployment assistance, at $300 per week, has been added on to Utah’s own unemployment assistance. The extra money was set to expire in September, but state officials say that ending it June 26 makes sense for Utah.
“Remember what it was like early on in the pandemic,” said Kevin Burt, assistant deputy director with Department of Workforce Services.
“Overnight, there was a pandemic, a health concern — with a stay home, stay safe. So individuals had to close their businesses in some cases, and individuals were immediately laid off,” added Burt.
At the time, the federal assistance was critical; last Spring, he says, roughly 130,000 Utahns were claiming unemployment. Now, that number is closer to 25,000.
Utah’s unemployment rate is among the nation’s lowest, vaccines are available — and businesses are struggling to fill jobs, he says. According to Burt, there are tens of thousands of jobs currently unfilled in the Beehive State.
“What we wanted to do is make sure the government didn’t compete with employers to get talented employees,” said Burt.
On June 26, the $300 per week benefits will end in Utah. So, too, will the federal unemployment benefits for the self-employed and also the extended benefits for those who have been unemployed longer than Utah’s 26-week limit.
Utah is among some two dozen other states around the country to opt out of federal unemployment assistance funds before they were set to expire.