Facing shortages, states bring back work-search requirements for unemployment benefits

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A shortage of workers across the country is forcing multiple states to reinstate their work-search requirements for those collecting unemployment benefits.

Employers are having trouble finding workers due to the $300 per week federal unemployment benefits given out on top of what would be given by the states. With no work-search requirement, people are incentivized to remain unemployed, according to Pennsylvania State Rep. Jim Cox.

Cox, the Labor and Industry Committee Chairman, co-sponsored a bill to reinstate work-search requirements on June 8. Governor Tom Wolf has not said whether he supports or opposes the bill, but said he will review it if it reached his desk. Wolf announced that most COVID restrictions will be lifted in Pennsylvania by Memorial Day.

Prior to lockdowns, most states required the unemployed to prove that they were actively looking for work to receive benefits from the government. In most cases, turning down a job offer would be enough to terminate benefits. The rules were relaxed or paused as unemployment ballooned due to COVID restrictions. Now, multiple states are announcing a return to pre-COVID work-search requirements, hoping to encourage people to rejoin the workforce.

Kentucky residents seeking unemployment benefits will need to make at least one job contact each week and report those details to the state every two weeks beginning Sunday. Requirements include stating the name of the business, job title, name and position of the person contacted, the date of contact, and the contact method.

The Maine Department of Labor says people receiving unemployment will be required to actively look for work and accept positions for which they are reasonably qualified beginning May 23. A refusal to accept an offer of suitable work will be grounds for disqualifying a person for benefits.

Governor Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that work-search requirements would soon be coming to Florida. Pre-pandemic, for someone to apply for unemployment benefits, they were required to make a minimum of five verifiable job contacts each week and submit the evidence. DeSantis says he would like to see these requirements reinstated by the end of May.

Other states including, Michigan, Vermont, and Idaho have all announced intent to bring back work-search requirements for those collecting unemployment benefits.