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Stimulus money middle ground needs to be found

Policymakers at the state and federal level have a conundrum on their hands. While trillions of dollars are being handed out to boost our economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, some are beginning to wonder if all that stimulus hasn’t reached the point of doing more harm than good — to the job market, anyway.

U.S. employers posted a record number of available jobs in March. Job gains are weak not because there is not potential, but because employers can’t find people to fill the jobs they already have. Job openings rose nearly 8%, to 8.1 million in March, the most found in records dating back to December 2000. Yet overall hiring that month rose less than 4% to 6 million.

In a survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business, an astounding 44% had jobs they couldn’t fill, also a record high.

Even President Joe Biden concedes the federal government should begin working with states on reviving requirements that those receiving aid must search for jobs and take a position if offered.

“Anyone collecting unemployment, who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said.

But those checks haven’t stopped coming.

Meanwhile, an economist says recent reports “add to evidence from the April employment report that labor shortages are widespread, pushing up prices and potentially acting as a brake on the recovery.”

Of course there are still good, pandemic-related reasons some people are unable to seek work. But even those excuses are quickly disappearing. It is time for states and the federal government to find a middle ground — use a little common sense and judgment — about who still genuinely needs help because of the pandemic, and who is taking full advantage of the government’s “generosity” to avoid working and truly contributing to our recovery.

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