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OUR OPINION: Ending pandemic jobless benefits early isn't a long-term solution for Iowa's workforce issues

OUR OPINION: Ending pandemic jobless benefits early isn't a long-term solution for Iowa's workforce issues

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Virus Outbreak Iowa

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks March 17 during a news conference in Johnston, Iowa.

Attracting enough workers to Iowa has been a problem for years.

Officials have tried touting the quality of life, the low cost of living, the ability to be around friends and family.

But now Gov. Kim Reynolds says it’s pandemic unemployment aid that has been holding us back.

Even though Congress approved the relief through September, Reynolds decided to end the additional federal payments and programs on June 12, saying it was discouraging workers from taking jobs in the state that need filling.

That’s a naïve approach.

Should unemployed Iowans accept jobs in fields they’ve never been in just because they’re the only option they have? Or should they leave the state and continue a career where they didn’t have to weigh outside sources and their ability to remove their access to help in time of need?

A number of Republican elected officials and business groups – like the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Siouxland Initiative – lauded Reynolds’ decision. Local employers have told the Initiative, the economic development arm of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, that they couldn’t compete with the added federal benefits, which includes a supplemental payment of $300 per week.

We get that. But what we don’t get is how this is a long-term solution to an age-old problem. Isn’t a ready workforce the real issue? Wouldn’t we be wise to figure out ways to bring outsiders to the state, not hamper the workers we already have?

For some – those taking care of family members who are struggling from the effects of COVID-19, those who can’t find daycare for children – the pandemic relief has kept them afloat.

Without that kind of help, more businesses could have gone under, more individuals would have had to make extremely tough decisions. Now that we’re coming out of it, we shouldn’t cripple those who are still not back.

We’ve heard the complaint, “They’re not working because they can make more on unemployment,” but it can’t be true for tens of thousands of Iowans. If it is, that says more about our state than our work force.

If someone is gaming the system, do you really want him or her as an employee? Find the real problem, fix that and continue to make Iowa attractive to more potential workers who may move to the state to fill the open jobs. 


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