We have all heard stories from businesses that are unable to fill job vacancies because of a lack of workers. Unfortunately, this deficit in the workforce leaves many of these businesses unable to operate or critically short-staffed .
The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) reports that restaurants in North Carolina are down about 70,000 workers, around 17% of the industry’s workforce, since the beginning of the pandemic. As of today, there are 240,000 individuals in North Carolina that are receiving weekly unemployment benefits, according to the state Department of Commerce. However, North Carolinas workforce system, NCWorks, lists current job openings in the state in excess of 200,000. This does not include job openings provided by employers who do not utilize the NCWorks system.
Now that our state is fully re-opened, it is time to end the “extra” federal unemployment benefits that were designed as a temporary assistance due to COVID-19 shutdowns. These benefits, which provide an additional $300 per week in addition to what the state already provides, have become a serious impediment to re-employment and North Carolina’s economic recovery.
Nearly half of all states have already dropped the extra federal unemployment benefits, including South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. In July, Maryland will become the 25th state to end their participation in the program. It is time for North Carolina to follow suit. We cannot have a full recovery from the pandemic until we get these jobs filled, and our citizens back to work. Despite facing incredible hardships from the pandemic, businesses are offering higher wages (many over $15 an hour) and other incentives to help fill their job openings. Yet, many are simply unable to compete with these “extra” federal unemployment benefits. The math is clear: a person making $15 an hour earns $600 for a 40-hour work week. However, expanded federal unemployment pays up to $650 for a zero-hour work week.
The “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act” ends the “extra” $300 per week federal unemployment benefits while also providing much-needed tax relief to businesses and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it also allows businesses to deduct expenses paid using a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This will reduce the tax burden on small businesses who utilize PPP loans to keep their employees on the payroll.
Furthermore, it excludes unemployment compensation from taxpayers’ gross income up to the amount specified under federal guidelines. This will extend tax relief to thousands of North Carolinians who were unemployed during the COVID pandemic. This legislation meets the needs of employers, business owners, workers and the unemployed. It will help ensure North Carolina has a full economic recovery from the pandemic. This bill is also supported by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).