Montana opts to end extra $300/wk unemployment. Other states may, too

(from KRTV with AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday the state will end its participation next month in the federal covid-19 unemployment  program, as the state struggles with a worker shortage.

Beginning June 27, unemployed workers in the state will no longer receive $300 in extra weekly benefits, forgoing payments that were approved through Sept. 6.

Instead, the state will launch a new program to provide bonuses to unemployed workers who return to work.

Under the new incentive program (the Return to Work initiative), workers currently receiving unemployment benefits can qualify for a one-time $1,200 bonus after they have completed four weeks in a new job. The governor approved $15 million in funding for the incentives from federal coronavirus relief dollars allocated to the state.

“Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage,” said Gianforte. “Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce. Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”

Across Montana, employers struggle to find workers, particularly in the health care, construction, manufacturing, and hospitality and leisure industries. Returning to pre-pandemic unemployment eligibility and offering return-to-work incentives will encourage workers to reenter the workforce and help ease a critical labor shortage across Montana.

“Montana’s unemployment rate is at just 3.8% – near pre-pandemic lows – and statewide there are record numbers of new job postings each week. But today, despite an influx of new residents into Montana over the last year, our labor force is some 10,000 workers smaller than it was before the pandemic,” said Laurie Esau, the commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. “Our labor shortage doesn’t just affect employers and business owners. Employees who are forced to work longer shifts, serve more customers or clients, and take on more duties have been paying the price.”

Gianforte said that Montana will be the first state in the nation to fully opt-out of the federal unemployment benefit programs enacted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Requirements that unemployment insurance claimants actively seek work and be “able and available” for work will be reinstated effective June 27, as well. These requirements had previously been suspended under emergency rule-making authority in March of last year. More information about work-search and “able & available” requirements is available in the UI Claimants handbook.

Compiled from a report at KRTV .com with Associated Press. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.


1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. For what reason is Montana ending the $300 per week extra unemployment pay early, instead of waiting until it ends in September, and replacing it with a one-time $1,200 bonus?

3. What program is the government replacing the extra unemployment pay with, as an incentive to return to work?

4. What did Gov. Gianforte say about the federal governments’ extra $300 per week pay for those who are unemployed? Be specific.

5. Who is negatively impacted by the $1,200 per month extra unemployment pay?

6. Do you think Montana’s Return to Work initiative is a good idea? Explain your answer.

7. Employers across the country have reported difficulty finding employees due to the extra $1,200 per month unemployed Americans are receiving. Covid numbers are drastically down; numbers of people vaccinated and successful treatments and therapeutics are up.
a) What do you think: is the extra pay to stay home “doing more harm than good” at this point? Explain your answer.
b) People are being paid not to work. Is giving this extra pay until September to every unemployed person a good idea? Explain your answer.

8. What would you tell a friend who says he is going to wait until the extra $1,200/month “pandemic pay” ends before he gets a job?


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