President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to an electrical workers’ union hall on Labor Day where he was all smiles socializing with blue collar workers there – as millions of Americans lose their federal COVID pandemic unemployment benefits.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 313 in Delaware represents 700 active members.
When he arrived on Monday afternoon Biden spoke and shook hands with members gathered there – one of whom was wearing a Biden 2020 shirt, according to White House pool reports.
The president asked the union workers to join him for sandwiches from a Delaware-founded fast casual chain that were provided for the event.
He spent the sunny day speaking with electrical workers and taking photos with them, at one point taking a call from one of the employees’ mother.
‘Mom, I wish you were here. I just stopped by to thank these guys,’ Biden told the parent over the phone. ‘Happy Labor Day.’
The entire encounter lasted roughly 30 minutes before Biden returned to his Wilmington residence.
Meanwhile, more than 7million Americans will lose federal unemployment benefits today and an additional 3million will stop receiving a $300 weekly boost on checks as emergency COVID payments expire.
Four types of specialized unemployment payments that were created because of COVID end on Monday.
They are; the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ($300 weekly boost on existing payments), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (for those who already exhausted their state unemployment benefits), Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation ($100-per-week for people who previously worked as a contractor and employee) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which widened who could apply for unemployment).
Today, 18 months after they were first created, Americans will no longer be able to claim any of them.
Many say the expiry is overdue and that the inflated benefits drove a labor shortage because people could make more money doing nothing than they did in certain jobs.
The end of the payments comes after an abysmal jobs report in August with just 235,000 new jobs added to the economy – 765,000 fewer than the previous month.
Unemployment benefits for 7million people who were put out of work by COVID will end on Monday after 18 months. Some businesses say it helped drive a labor shortage, because the payments were so high
The unemployment rate at the start of COVID was the highest on record at nearly 15 percent. It has now dropped below 6 percent again
Both the public and private sectors suffered in COVID-19 with jobs dropping off suddenly as entire industries shut down
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits soared in April 2020
Job growth slowed suddenly in August – the month before the payments were ending – after months of progress. Biden blamed it on the Delta variant and people not getting vaccinated
Biden blamed it on the spread of the Delta variant and the number of people who are still not vaccinated. He then also tried to claim it was proof that his economic recovery plan was working.
Earlier in the summer, he said the incentives were keeping people from rejoining the workforce and told a restaurant owner in Ohio at a town hall in May: ‘We’re ending all of those things that are things keeping people from going back to work.’
President Biden was criticized for allowing the payments to run on for so long and incentivize people not to work
He also told the restaurant owner that he’d have to increase wages if he wanted to entice people back to work.
Some Republican states ended COVID unemployment benefits early in an effort to incentivize people to return to work.
Biden on Monday released a video on Twitter wishing the country a Happy Labor Day and saying he had ‘never been more optimistic about the future of America’ but he did not address the payments expiring.
Jared Bernstein, who sits on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended ending the payments.
He told told the AP, ‘Twenty-two-trillion-dollar economies work in no small part on momentum and we have strong momentum going in the right direction on behalf of the American workforce.’
Some say it is too soon to end the payments and that many industries – like tourism and restaurants – have not yet fully recovered.
They pointed to the fact that economic recovery is slower than expected in America.
‘This will be a double whammy of hardship. We’re not anywhere near done. People still need help. For millions of people nothing has changed from a year and a half ago,’ Jamie Contreras, secretary-treasurer of the SEIU, a union that represents custodians in office buildings and food service workers in airports, said.
‘Letting these benefits expire under the current circumstances and the current uncertainty that we’re experiencing is tantamount to forcing people to fall through the cracks.
Mary Taboniar was a cleaner in a hotel in Hawaii when COVID decimated tourism. She told the AP that she had been relying on the payments, and that her work was still half of what it was in 2019. ‘It’s really scaring me. How can I pay rent if I don’t have unemployment and my job isn’t back?’ she said
‘It’s not just letting people fall through the cracks,’ Rakeen Mabud, chief economist at the progressive research nonprofit Groundwork Collaborative, said to
The August job number was the worst since January and it was also down significantly from July, when the economy added 943,000 jobs for an unemployment rate of 5.4%.
‘Disappointing jobs miss and yet President Biden and the Dems remain hell-bent on spending trillions of dollars more and increasing hardworking Americans’ dependency on the federal government,’ tweeted Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty after Biden’s speech.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, pointed to the ‘disastrous jobs report,’ noting that it was ‘missing expectations by half a million’ saying ‘”Jimmy Carter 2.0″ is an understatement’ about Biden.
Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube said, ‘Biden is tanking the economy.’
Among governors who are not renewing them is the newly-sworn in Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul.
Speaking on Monday, she said unemployed people had to ‘connect the dots’ to find jobs.
‘It’s simply a matter of connecting the dots, connecting the people to the training, connecting them to the positions.
‘That’s something I’ll be laser-focused on because a lot of people are hurting today as a result of the federal government’s not extending the resources and the time frame for this,’ she said.
Some of those affected say it is too soon because their pre-pandemic workloads have not returned.
Mary Taboniar was a cleaner in a hotel in Hawaii when COVID decimated tourism.
She told the AP that she had been relying on the payments, and that her work was still half of what it was in 2019.
‘It’s really scaring me. How can I pay rent if I don’t have unemployment and my job isn’t back?’ she said.
But bosses in the restaurant industry, particularly in New York City, say they need the payments to end to get people back to work.