Indiana will opt out of federal unemployment benefit programs, effective in mid-June as Gov. Eric Holcomb follows other states in an attempt to push people back into the workforce.
Starting June 19, Indiana will no longer pay an extra $300 in federal benefits each week for all unemployment claims. It will also completely end benefit programs for people who are self-employed or gig workers that roughly 70,000 Hoosiers are accessing.
Also set to end is an extended benefit program for the long-time unemployed another 62,000 people currently benefit from.
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Holcomb said the move is in response to employers complaining that they can’t grow if they can’t hire enough workers. He said there’s just fewer 120,000 jobs that need to be filled.
“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” Holcomb said in a statement. “I’ve spoken to leaders in the recreational vehicle industry who tell me they could hire thousands of people today, and in the last couple weeks, we’ve seen companies like Amazon, Apple, Toyota, and Milwaukee Tool announce thousands of new career opportunities for Hoosiers."
But economists say there’s no evidence unemployment benefits are by and large keeping people out of jobs. Instead, they point to stagnant wages and a lack of child care options during the ongoing pandemic.
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, an average of 32,000 Hoosiers each week – over the last four weeks – are still using the state’s regular unemployment program.
Some states like Montana and Arizona have instituted one-time "return-to-work" bonuses as much as $2,000 for workers who secure employment after they opted out of federal benefit programs. In response to an inquiry, the governor's office said the announcement ending benefits "lays out the extent of our plan."
This story has been updated with the response from the governor's office.