Sweet Deals in Massachusetts Fade With Jobless Benefits [OPINION]
Massachusetts has about $4.8 billion left of the roughly $6 billion received under the American Rescue Plan Act for COVID relief from the federal government. It doesn't appear as though any of it will go to the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents whose extended unemployment benefits expired last week.
State lawmakers have been conducting hearings to gather input on what to do with all of the money. There are many ideas under consideration, but aiding the 330,000 or so Massachusetts residents whose benefits ran out when three main emergency unemployment insurance programs expired on September 6 is not one that seems to have a lot of support.
The extended benefits ended for some seven million people across the country in 24 states, and using ARPA funds to offer additional assistance is not seriously under consideration in any of them.
The beneficiaries of the extended jobless benefits knew months ago that the program would end. Many folks either didn't pay attention or assumed another extension would be granted. It was not. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents are frantically searching for jobs. Some are facing a great urgency as rent moratoriums have been lifted and winter heating bills are on the way.
Many Bay State businesses, short on staff, offered incentives to attract workers – but now, with an abundance of candidates, those companies can afford to be more selective. All of a sudden, job seekers find themselves competing for positions that could have been theirs for the asking just a month ago.
This is all reminiscent of the Aesop fable about the ants and the grasshopper.
Lawmakers are right to refuse to use the federal COVID aid to extend unemployment benefits again. If you spent the summer at the beach rather than looking for a job, shame on you. Most Massachusetts residents worked through the pandemic and want the ARPA money to be spent for the betterment of all Massachusetts and not the benefit of a handful of residents.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.