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Tag: american rescue plan

Voters Overwhelmingly Support Biden Infrastructure Plan As GOP Plots Obstruction

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A day after Senate Republicans blocked debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, a new poll shows about two-thirds of American voters back the framework.

On Thursday, Navigator Research released a survey of 1,000 registered voters, finding 66 percent supported the plan — agreed upon in June by President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators — which would invest $579 billion in transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure. That framework was backed by 86 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and a 46 percent plurality of Republicans.

Although 11 Republican senators agreed on the outlines of a deal in June, every single one of them — and the entire GOP caucus — voted on Wednesday to filibuster a motion to start debate on the bill. Because the motion required a three-fifths supermajority vote, the Democratic majority was stymied in its attempt to even take the plan up for consideration. Attempts to salvage an agreement are ongoing.

So far, Republicans have been unable to reach an agreement on how to pay for the plan. A key funding source in their original framework — expanding Internal Revenue Service enforcement to crack down on rich tax dodgers who underpay what they owe — had to be abandoned due to pushback from GOP senators who did not want to give more money to the understaffed agency.

But the Navigator poll showed that this approach is also quite popular.

Asked if they "support or oppose increasing funding for the IRS by $80 billion to crack down on wealthy tax cheats" — an increase that is double the $40 billion in the original bipartisan agreement — 61 percent of respondents said they supported the idea. Just 25 percent were opposed. Democrats backed it 80 percent --8 percent, and independents supported it 55 percent --26 percent. Republicans were almost evenly split, 42 percent for, 44 percent against.

When told that such an investment "could bring in up to $700 billion in tax revenue over the next decade," support increased to 66 percent --21 percent overall — with 85 percent --7 percent among Democrats, and 60 percent -- 20 percent among independents. Even a plurality of Republicans backed the idea, 46 percent -- 36 percent.

Democratic lawmakers and the president are pushing to fund some of the policies that were forced out of the bipartisan infrastructure plan through separate legislation.

Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — passed in March without a single Republican vote — already contained a major 2021 expansion of the child tax credit. Thanks to those provisions, 92 percent of families with children will receive some savings. For millions of families, it also meant monthly payments, beginning on July 15.

Biden proposed an extension in his American Families Plan — much of which is expected to be included in a Democratic "human infrastructure" bill. But with unanimous GOP opposition, it would likely have to be passed through the budget reconciliation process, or by simple majority, without any GOP votes.

The poll found the child tax credit is supported by 56 percent of voters and opposed by 30 percent.

When told that "more than 90 percent of U.S. households with children are eligible" to receive the credit, overall support climbed to 63 percent to 28 percent. That included 82 percent -- 13 percent Democratic support and 61 percent -- 26 percent independent support. Republicans barely opposed it, 44 percent -- 45 percent.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Plan Is About To Boost Jobless Workers And Families With Kids

Republican governors across the country have cut off federal unemployment benefits for millions of people, but Democratic policies are still kicking in to help people struggling in the uneven recovery from the COVID-19 economy. Two parts of the American Rescue Plan going into effect in July provide direct aid to unemployed people and to families with kids.

In just one of the American Rescue Plan's improvements to the Affordable Care Act, on July 1, unemployed people became eligible for additional Affordable Care Act subsidies. "An average of three out of five eligible uninsured Americans can access $0 plans after subsidies are factored in, and an average of four out of five current consumers will be able to select a policy for $10 or less per month, according to the Department of Health and Human Services," CNN reports.

And on July 15, expanded, monthly child tax credit payments start going out to millions of families. The overall child tax credit increased from $2,000 to $3,000, plus an additional $600 for children under six, and because it will be paid monthly, families can factor it into their regular spending, covering things like back-to-school clothes and supplies, paying monthly bills, or paying off debts. According to one recent survey, though, more than 55 percent of people receiving the credit plan to save it—a move that can cushion families against future instability due to job loss, medical bills, or other unexpected expenses.

It's estimated that the expanded child tax credit will cut child poverty by 45 percent. Currently, the parents with the lowest incomes don't get all of the existing child tax credit—in fact, 10 percent of kids get nothing. That's not true of the new policy.

After getting monthly payments through the end of 2021, families will get an additional lump sum when they file their taxes in 2022. Families that saw an income increase in 2021 over the 2019 or 2020 tax returns used to calculate the tax credit may not get that lump sum if the IRS determines they weren't eligible for the full credit in 2021; a few families with large income jumps may have to repay some of what they got in monthly payments. You can check out this calculator to find out if you're eligible for monthly payments, and how much. Families that don't want monthly payments can opt out. Unfortunately, the process will be much more complicated for families that don't file taxes, since the new IRS tool for them to sign up is generally seen as a user-unfriendly mess. Nonetheless, the money is out there, and parents and guardians of children 17 and younger should make sure to get it.

The combined impact of these two policies is that a jobless parent of two children whose $300 a week federal unemployment supplement has just been cut by their Republican governor could now be getting free health care and $500 to $600 a month in child tax credit checks. These American Rescue Plan provisions are a step toward what the U.S. safety net should look like all the time, not just during a massive global pandemic.

As Job Growth Doubles, Republicans Insist Biden ‘Failed’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Republicans spent Friday morning attacking President Joe Biden over the latest jobs numbers, suggesting the figures, which were slightly lower than predicted, constituted a failure.

The U.S. economy in fact added 559,000 jobs in May — more than double the number added the month before. The improving employment data comes as new unemployment claims have dropped to new pandemic lows in recent weeks, in the wake of Biden's American Rescue Plan and a successful COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Though the new job totals were slightly below the economists' predictions of around 650,000 new jobs, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent — better than those same economists' 5.9 percent expectation.

House Republicans tried to spin this progress as a great disappointment.

"Economy falls short of expectations with 559,000 jobs added in May," the official House Republican twitter account complained.

"As we emerge from the virus, our economy should be booming, but today's lackluster jobs report shows President Biden's policies have stalled our recovery," wrote House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "Bidenomics is bad for America."

"Yet again, President Biden's jobs report misses the mark - further proof that the Democrats' socialist economic agenda DOES NOT WORK," Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the House Republican Conference chair, tweeted.

"Joe Biden's economy misses again," tweeted Colorado Rep. Ken Buck. "This is what happens when you disincentivize work."

"The May jobs report missed the mark by 100k jobs. Enough is enough," saidRep. Barry Moore of Alabama. "It's time for Biden to stop incentivizing unemployment and get Americans back to work."

Without evidence, Republicans blamed disappointing April jobs numbers — added employment of just 266,000 — on the $300-a-week emergency unemployment insurance payments provided under Biden's American Rescue Plan, suggesting they were somehow encouraging workers to stay home.

But William Spriggs, the AFL-CIO's chief economist, noted that was not actually happening. "Labor force flow data show we are in a steady pattern of unemployed workers being able to land jobs. The early exits last Spring reflected the large share of temporary layoffs," he wrote. "The flat trend shows there is nothing related to UI benefit supplement changes."

After strong job growth under President Barack Obama, Donald Trump saw a net loss of about 3 million jobs during his term — the worst numbers since Herbert Hoover. While Trump presided over job growth prior to the coronavirus and its resulting economic shutdown, even his best month pre-pandemic was just 378,000 new jobs (in February 2018).

Biden has already regained a substantial number of the jobs Trump lost: more than 2.1 million in just four months.

He has also proposed an American Jobs Plan which would create and sustain millions more jobs over the next decade. Republicans have objected to it, instead offering just a small fraction of the new investments in infrastructure Biden requested.

Despite sustained GOP attempts to label Biden a failure, the American public is simply not buying it. A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, released last Monday, found that 62 percent approve of his job performance and the same number approve of his handling of the economy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

DeSantis Took $9 Billion From Biden's COVID Relief Bill He Slammed

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a vehement critic of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which the far-right Republican and ally of former President Donald Trump has slammed as "Washington as its worst." But Steve Benen, in an op-ed published by MSNBC's website on June 3, stresses that there is a major problem with DeSantis "railing against" that bill: his willingness to accept almost $9 billion in Rescue Plan funds from the federal government.

Benen explains, "Yesterday, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed his state's budget, there were plenty of smiles, with the governor announcing $1,000 bonuses for teachers, principals and first responders. 'We're proud that we got the bonuses through,' the Republican boasted. There was a detail, however, that DeSantis didn't mention."

That detail, Benen adds, is how much the Florida budget relies on federal funds from the Rescue Plan. On June 2, Politico's Matt Dixon reported that DeSantis "signed a $100 billion state budget bolstered by nearly $9 billion in expected federal stimulus funds, putting the Republican governor in the awkward political position of building his budget on a wave of cash from President Joe Biden.... The newly signed budget, the biggest in state history.... was made much easier to cobble together because of the American Rescue Plan, the Biden Administration's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package."

The Rescue Plan came about strictly because of Democrats; not one Republican in either the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives voted for it — although some House Republicans have hypocritically tried to take credit for a bill they voted against.

Benen says of DeSantis' use of Rescue Act funds in Florida's budget, "It's not quite the same thing as congressional Republicans voting against the bill, and then taking credit for its investments, but it's awfully close. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who's running against the incumbent governor next year, wasted little time noting the tension between DeSantis' condemnation of the Democratic law and the eagerness with which the Florida Republican celebrated the law's resources."

Crist, who was a Republican during his years as Florida governor but is now a Democrat, said, "While Gov. DeSantis will try to claim credit today, the truth is that he opposed the American Rescue Plan. He opposed the funding that is providing bonuses to teachers and first responders. He opposed the funding that is helping cities and schools recover from a challenging year. And he opposed the direct relief checks that were a lifeline as our economy recovers."

DeSantis was elected governor of Florida in 2018, narrowly defeating the Democratic nominee: former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — and he is seeking reelection in 2022. The Florida governor and Trump loyalist is being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2024, although it's unlikely that he will seek the GOP presidential nomination three years from now if Trump decides to run.

Congressional Republicans Frustrated As Biden Rides Strong Approval Ratings

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried to claim that President Joe Biden is already a failure, just a few months into his presidency. But a new poll shows the American public is not buying it.

"It took less than 5 months for President Biden and Speaker Pelosi's Socialist Democratic Agenda to fail," New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the new chair of the House Republican Conference, tweeted on Tuesday. "Unemployment is up, inflation is rising, & our economy is crippled by unnecessary spending."

Unemployment is actually down since Donald Trump left office in January and the economy is growing.

But that has not stopped numerous Republicans from making similar attacks on Biden.

Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff tweeted Thursday that Biden's "policies are failing the American people. We need a President who will open up our economy and get people back to work."

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed Friday — incorrectly — that "Biden is failing so fast that his own voters are ready to vote for Trump in '24," apparently unaware of Biden's strong approval ratings.

Some GOP lawmakers have specifically singled out his immigration policies for ridicule.

"The border policies of the Biden Administration are a complete failure and are leading to a massive increase in illegal immigration – with no end in sight," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged on May 11.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn on May 6 claimed a drop in deportations was "a failure of leadership."

Others have attacked Biden's handling of jobs and the economy.

"The Dems' 'COVID' recovery plan to pay people MORE on unemployment assistance than they made in their previous job is killing small businesses," wrote Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas on April 26. "This socialist policy was doomed to fail."

"In just four months, Biden has created four crises," claimed Alabama Rep. Barry Moore, citing the "Biden Border Crisis, Economic Crisis, Energy Crisis, National Security Crisis," as alleged examples. "This administration is failing the American people."

But the repetition of the claim does not appear to have swayed the public.

A new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, released Monday, found 62 percent job approval for Biden.

His handling of immigration (53 percent approval), the economy (62 percent), stimulating jobs (62 percent) and curbing the pandemic (70 percent) also enjoy broad approval.

This comes as unemployment claims have dropped to pandemic lows and most American adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Still, despite the strong public support for Biden, Republicans are fighting against his agenda. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on May 5 that ""One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration."

And Republicans reportedly are pulling back from infrastructure talks, upset that Biden wants to spend $1.5 trillion more than they do. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) told Politico on Tuesday that Republicans won't come up to "anywhere near the number the White House has proposed" for the American Jobs Plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How That ‘Blue State Bailout’ Is Rescuing The Reddest States

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Since May 10, the federal government has dispersed $105 billion of the $350 billion included in the American Rescue Plan to state and local governments. The Treasury Department says 1,500 entities have received that funding, the funding Sen. Mitch McConnell adamantly opposed for the entirety of the pandemic, calling it a "blue state bailout."

"This state and local aid program is going to provide transformative funding to communities across the country, and our Treasury team is focused on getting relief to these communities as quickly as possible," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement announcing the progress of the funding thus far. "In the past 11 days, almost a third of the funding has gone out the door, and I'm hopeful communities will be able to rehire teachers and help businesses re-open much sooner than otherwise."

Tens of thousands of state, local, territorial, and tribal governments can request funding. The Treasury Department details the uses of the relief: "Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control; Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs; Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses; Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic."

Let's check in on how that "blue state bailout" funding is going so far. Arkansas' Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has $1.57 billion for the state, and at the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Steering Committee Wednesday said that they could do a lot with it, from vaccine distribution to expanding broadband. "It is unique in history. It's a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure in our state from broadband to health care to cybersecurity, from IT to water projects," Hutchinson said. Arkansas received a total of $5 billion, with the remaining $3.5 billion going to local governments and other projects.

"We need all the help we can get. It wasn't until vaccines rolled out that we rounded the corner. I think money allocated for vaccines, not just vaccines, but the education of the public about the safety of the vaccines, is essential to continuing to solve what has been a really long year-plus problem," Rogers, Arkansas Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, a COVID-19 response force member, said. The steering committee chair, Larry Walther, agreed: "COVID response, decreasing the spread of the virus, getting the pandemic under control, vaccinations, contact tracing, those sort of the things are the number one," Walther said.

This week, Muncie, Indiana, Mayor Dan Ridenour, a Republican, announced the city's preliminary plans for using the first tranche of the $32 million his city is getting. Just over $2.7 million will help the city overcome a budget shortfall; another $2 million will help the city's restaurants recover; $2 million each will help small businesses and nonprofit organizations; and over $4 million will go to hotels. There's also funding for substance abuse and behavioral health treatment, public art, and neighborhood assistance.

In another not-blue state, Iowa, "both the city of Des Moines and Polk County are receiving nearly $100 million in aid, the most of any Iowa city or county. Twelve Iowa cities are receiving aid, and all 99 counties are receiving at least $600,000." That means each county is getting about $200 per resident, based on 2019 census data. The state as a whole is getting $1.48 billion in American Rescue Plan money.

Idaho is going to get $1.1 billion, and state officials have said it will be used to "substantially bolster the state's water, sewer and broadband infrastructure." Alex Adams, Republican Gov. Brad Little's budget chief, touted the five-year window for completing projects with the funding. "That's a huge benefit for a rural state like ours where it's going to take years for some of these large sewer, water and broadband projects to come to fruition," Adams said. Idaho's largest cities in the state are getting a total of $124 million, smaller cities $108 million, and counties another $314 million.

McConnell's home state of Kentucky is getting $2.183 billion. "Our economy is surging and strong," Gov. Andy Beshear (a Democrat) said. "We are in a strong position to sprint out of this pandemic with continued positive economic indicators and with this funding that will create jobs, momentum and a better quality of life in every corner of the commonwealth." The state had already planned to use "use 1.3 million to boost the state's economy, expanding broadband, delivering clean drinking water and building new schools," and is "expected to create more than 14,500 new jobs." The state's general fund will be shored up.

The Tennessee Comptroller, Jason Mumpower, talked to one county's leaders this week to tout the projects available with the funding. "This could include helping workers, households, small businesses, nonprofits and impacted industries, such as tourism, travel and hospitality industry. Yes. You can use this money to make grants to individuals and small businesses," Mumpower said. "We look out across the landscape of Tennessee on a daily basis and think, 'Where does the greatest financial peril lie?' It lies in water and sewer. It lies underground," Mumpower told the Wilson county officials, who are expecting $28 million in relief funds.

All these Republican states getting all that funding passed solely by Democrats in the Senate, benefitting from the commitment to good governance -- and acting like they're goddamned adults like Democrats continue to model.

Stop Shaming Workers About Their Relief Checks -- And Give Them A Raise

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Workers suddenly enjoy newfound clout in the emerging post-pandemic economy. With lots of employers desperate to fill a stockpile of new positions as retail outlets spring back to life in a vaccinated America, a short-term worker shortage has emerged. Republicans and their business community friends are furious, blaming a lazy workforce, and the press is helping their cause by shining a spotlight on employer complaints, while paying far less attention to employee priorities.

Republicans are loudly braying that President Joe Biden is to blame for the sea of "Help Wanted" signs, as GOP governors across the country take the extraordinary step of cutting off additional unemployment benefits for their struggling citizens. They're refusing the funds even though the benefits, $300 a week until September, are paid for entirely by the federal government, as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package signed into law.

"We are currently facing a labor shortage created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides," South Carolina's Republican governor announced, while turning down millions in aid, much of which would have been spent by residents inside red states, thereby boosting local economies.

Republicans have been cheered on by the Chamber of Commerce and other deep-pocketed interest groups which are demanding the government somehow make people go back to work -- often for low, stagnant wages, under poor working conditions, and while punching the clock for huge corporate employers that pocket billions in profits. (The median hourly pay for American fast-food workers in 2020 was $11.47, the same year McDonald's posted $5 billion in profits.)

First off, rarely have we seen an unproven economic hunch like this treated so seriously by the press. The vast majority of the news coverage simply accepts as fact that government benefits might be keeping people from returning to work. Even though that same coverage rarely includes a single piece of empirical evidence to back up the claim. (Economists have found no proof to support it.)

Writing in the Washington Post, Megan McArdle announced unequivocally that the $300 stimulus checks were "holding back the economic recovery," by giving people a strong disincentive to work. McArdle's proof? "Anecdotally," she was sure it was true.

Over and over, that pro-business talking point has been echoed in local news coverage as well. When WKNB in Youngstown, Ohio, reported on the Republican governor cutting off employment benefits, only business owners who supported the move were quoted, no workers. Same with a local report from the Albany Times Union in New York, which quoted a restaurant manager blaming the worker shortage on the government for "giving them all the money to stay home." No workers were interviewed.

That GOP narrative misses an important story unfolding as America emerges from the pandemic: Long-held assumptions about how we live are being scrambled.

For instance, as more schools nationwide reopen, millions of schoolchildren are opting not to return to in-person learning, just like millions of Americans, for now, are currently choosing not to return to the workforce. If the claim is that workers are staying home because the government is paying them in $300 weekly checks, what's the reason students are staying home, since there's no federal financial incentive to do so?

Answer: Priorities and lifestyles changed during the pandemic.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch recently nailed it in a column:

A year of lockdown has scrambled our ways of thinking about the workplace and where our paycheck fits into the broader meaning of life, our concept of what a job is worth, and — and here's where things get really interesting — who holds the upper hand? For the first time in decades, American workers are wondering ... who's the boss?

Maybe the glut of low-paying jobs isn't a sign of American slothfulness — it's a growing sign of worker awareness and self-preservation.

Over the last four decades, worker productivity in the U.S. has increased nearly 70 percent, but pay for hourly workers has only gone up 11 percent. People are working more efficiently, producing bigger profits for companies, and not being properly compensated.

That's the more important story, and it's going largely ignored by the mainstream media, which seem more interested in helping Republicans shame workers, as they deny additional unemployment benefits to two million people in red states.

Meanwhile, the press frets over the plight of employers while breezing past worker priorities. The New York Times last week did a long, front-page piece looking at businesses in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, struggling to find workers and stressing that government benefits are keep applicants away. The article featured the owners of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. But how much was the brewery willing to pay employees as owners complained that they couldn't fill their slots? That's important context in terms of how businesses are responding to the workforce shortage. If they refuse to significantly raise the rates they pay, should readers be sympathetic to their hiring plight and their claims that the Biden administration is responsible for the shortage?

But the Times article never reported how much the brewery paid. Down at the final sentence in the article, readers were informed, "When asked if it was raising pay, Dogfish Head said it offered competitive wages for the area."

Shorter answer: No, the brewery likely isn't paying higher wages. But the brewery is complaining about its worker shortage — a complaint the media gladly amplify.

Republican Complaint: Workers Don't Flock To Poverty-Wage Jobs

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republican lawmakers are blaming disappointing jobs numbers on unemployment benefits they claim incentivize employees to avoid returning to work — all while ignoring pleas for a higher minimum wage that might solve the supposed problem.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated on Friday that employers added 266,000 jobs in April — significantly less growth than the previous month — with the unemployment rate remaining almost unchanged at 6.1 percent.

Though administration officials say there is no evidence of a connection, Republican lawmakers were quick to blame this slowdown on the emergency unemployment benefits that were passed as part of President Joe Biden's COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan. Because the federal government is giving jobless Americans an extra $300 a week, they argued, it must mean people are finding unemployment more lucrative than the jobs available to them.

"People don't want to go back to work. We've sent them so much money, that they compare what they could receive by staying home versus going back to work," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Kentucky public television on Sunday. "Every employer I've heard from in Kentucky is having trouble getting people back to work. Enough is enough!"

"Truth: 4 of 10 unemployed get more $ to stay home than work," Texas Rep. Kevin Brady tweeted on Sunday.

"The US economy can't recover from the pandemic if small businesses can't fill jobs bc able bodied adults are paid more by the gov't to stay home & collect unemployment," Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York claimed the same day.

Other Republicans blasted the unemployment benefits as nonsensical, suggesting the jobs numbers were avoidable.

"How can anyone expect job growth when we are paying people more money to stay home and do nothing with expanded unemployment benefits?" Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted. "Common sense tells you people will stay home if they're making MORE money that way than working!"

"For months, I've warned of the consequences of the federal government paying Americans more to stay home than go back to their jobs," tweeted Florida Sen. Rick Scott. "Now, businesses across Florida have reopened but are struggling to find enough workers."

And Texas Rep. Pete Sessions claimed in a tweet on Friday, "The slight uptick in the unemployment rate and minimal jobs added to the economy validates that the federal government's unemployment benefits disincentivize individuals from taking jobs. Why work when the government can pay you to watch Netflix?"

Some GOP-run states have responded to the hiring slowdown by reducing the unemployment benefits for their constituents, to supposedly force them back to work. The Republican governors of Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina, for example, have moved to stop taking the $300-a-week federal subsidy and others are considering doing the same. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte tweeted Friday that "No-work bonuses won't get Americans back to work."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanded Friday that the federal government stop the subsidy entirely. "The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market," Neil Bradley, the trade group's executive vice president and chief policy officer, said in a press statement.

But while GOP lawmakers and lobbyists for big business are frustrated that people aren't scrambling to take low-wage jobs that don't pay a living wage, they seem uninterested in addressing the problem. Though some Democratic lawmakers have pointed to recent Republican backlash to argue for an immediate $15 federal minimum wage, the idea is wholly unpopular with conservative lawmakers.

Republican in the House and Senate, for instance, opposed such an increase earlier in the year.

Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, chair of the Joint Economic Committee, said in an email on Monday that it was "not surprising to hear some of those who opposed unemployment benefits all along trying to cast blame on this vital assistance for workers," noting that many of the job gains in April were in the leisure and hospitality sector — "the same sector that was the source of the anecdotes about supposed labor shortages."

In addition to getting everyone vaccinated, Beyer wrote, "Congress should work to ensure workers have access to affordable child care more and are paid a living wage; these and other policy changes in the American Jobs Plan and American Rescue Plan will fuel sustained growth that will benefit everyone."

Other Democrats have used the moment to make a similar push.

"It's crazy that people are not being able to make a fair wage that pays more than unemployment benefits," Rep. Ro Khanna of California told MSNBC on Friday. "What that says is we've gotta get to $15 wages in this country so people are able to make a living wage at their jobs and I think that would solve the issue."

"Don't blame the workers who aren't rushing back to frontline jobs to make $7.25/hour. Blame the companies who aren't willing to pay them a living wage," tweeted Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, urging colleagues to "focus on RAISING minimum wage instead of LOWERING unemployment benefits."

Experts agree that raising wages could be a boon to the economy.

David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, told The American Independent Foundation that with the economy still 8.2 million jobs behind pre-pandemic levels, it was not the time to be cutting back unemployment benefits.

"There are far more people looking for work and unable to find it than there are employers unable to fill vacancies, and pulling back on [unemployment insurance] will only slow down the recovery," he said. "To the extent that employers in some industries — like restaurants and leisure and hospitality — are having trouble finding staff, they need to take a hard look at the wages and quality of those jobs. Those industries are notoriously some of the lowest paying industries in the economy."

He added, "I don't think anyone should be surprised that some people might not be eager to take difficult jobs that are even harder now — and that might put their health at risk — if employers aren't offering better pay and benefits than they were offering prior to the pandemic."

"Many low-wage workers are being asked to do more — they're enforcing mask rules for customers and spending more time cleaning, but they're still only making $2.13 an hour plus tips," Lily Roberts, managing director for the Economic Policy Program at the Center for American Progress, said in an email.

"If their kids are in hybrid school or their childcare closed, they'll probably save money by staying home," she continued. "We can get people back to work by having safe and healthy workplaces, in-person care or education for kids, and fair pay for workers."

Michael Madowitz, a Center for American Progress economist, added separately, "We know higher wages bring people into the labor force, especially parents who need to earn enough to afford child care before they can take a job."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.