Via America’s Lawyer: Republican governors prepare to terminate unemployment benefits for those who suffered job losses during the pandemic. Yet millions of Americans still depend on this assistance just to make ends meet. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain how ending UI could cost local economies $12 billion.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Local economies could lose billions of dollars if Republican governors cancel enhanced unemployment benefits implemented during the pandemic to help Americans make ends meat. Brigida Santos is with me now to talk about that story. Brigida, why are Republicans, why are they so set on trying to cancel enhanced unemployment benefits early?

Brigida Santos:                   This appears, yeah, this appears to be for political reasons because that money has already been appropriated. It’s true that the most recent employment report from the Bureau of labor statistics reveals that millions of Americans still haven’t returned to work despite millions of job openings. But claims that this is due to enhanced unemployment benefits, simply isn’t supported by national data. The economy has only recovered 63% of the 22 million jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic. Employment trends are headed in the right direction, but this is of course going to take time. Many people are still worried about getting sick and the majority of recent labor gains have been realized by men. Many women left the workforce during the pandemic to care for their children and a lot of them still don’t have childcare options yet. But as schools reopen and as kids return to classes, women will likely go back to work. Now, some major players, we’ve talked about this before, in the fast food industry that are claiming they’re facing labor shortages are not accounting for the fact that women make up the majority of workforce in the fast food industry.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. So the Republican talking point is if you go to your local restaurant and they don’t even have enough people to serve. So they’re closing down lunches. They don’t even have enough people to make the restaurant work. Those are the talking points. Matter of fact, you’ll, you’ll, they’re doing a lot of these cameos now where they’re showing up to a restaurant, restaurant owner says, I can’t even get anybody to come in here and, and tend bar or work in the service industry. That’s their big talking point. So you say that’s not accurate, huh?

Brigida Santos:                   No, not necessarily. And this is the free market. If those companies can’t get people to come and work for them for low wages, then they should probably just change their incentive structures and give people more money and other things that would help them have a living wage.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, when does the extra unemployment benefits, when is it going to end?

Brigida Santos:                   Sure. Republican governors in 25 States will end extra pandemic emergency benefits in June or in July, rather than September when they were initially set to expire under federal coronavirus stimulus packages. Now, when this happens, nearly 4 million people will be impacted with 2 million losing their benefits altogether. According to data from the joint economic committee, local communities could lose over $12 billion as a result of cutting unemployment insurance before September. Half of the country is now essentially turning away billions of already appropriated federal funds that could have then been pumped back into the economy. This money was promised by the government to the American people after ordering them to stop working and now it’s being taken away.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, is the federal government going to step in? Is the Biden administration going to say, you know, I don’t care what y’all do Republican governors, we’re going to step in to solve the problem. What do you think?

Brigida Santos:                   No, even though the funds came from the federal aid packages, state governors ultimately have the final say because it’s the states that are administering unemployment funds. So the labor department says it’s unlikely to step in to try and stop those states from ending enhanced benefits, but pulling benefits early is now a grand experiment. We’re going to see whether it forces people back into those low wage jobs or whether more families are going to fall further into poverty following those government mandated shutdowns.

Mike Papantonio:             So you’re saying most people are can, yeah, one, most people are concluding that, hey, you know, I could go back for this very low wage or I could take a little less, take this unemployment as long as I can and improve, you know, improve my quality of life, I guess, is, is what you’re saying here. That’s kind of the thought out there. And when you look at some of the wages that some of these restaurants are paying, you know, even when you add the tips to it, it, it, it might be a better deal for some of these folks. What do you think?

Brigida Santos:                   I don’t know if it’s necessarily a better deal. But people don’t get vacation that’s paid. They don’t get paid time off at all, even when they’re sick. And so, yeah, it’s possible that some people would rather take that unemployment. But as I said, that argument isn’t really supported by data. A lot of people simply just haven’t gotten back to work for other concerns about their health and also childcare and things like that.

Mike Papantonio:             Brigida, thank you for joining me.

Brigida Santos:                   Thanks, Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.