It was the talk at practically every street corner and water cooler location in neighboring Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, and I would suggest the conversation still hasn’t completely been supplanted by another more controversial topic.
“It” has to do with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s announcement that he will allow Kentuckians still unemployed to keep the additional $300 federal unemployment benefits they’re currently receiving on top of the regular benefits they remain entitled to.
The governor’s plan also calls for paying the first 15,000 currently unemployed people $1,500 as motivation to get back to work, should any or all of this number take the governor up on his offer and do so by July 30.
The money to fund this back-to-work initiative — $22.5 million — is coming from the Coronvirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) fund.
In explaining the reasoning behind his proposal, Beshear essentially said the present workforce shortage in Kentucky and other states was primarily brought about by unprecedented circumstances that in turn were brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to one news article I read, Kentucky’s average unemployment recipient gets $352 a week as of March. Coupled with the $300 federal addendum, this works out to be about $16 an hour for doing nothing more than sitting at home watching Maury and Oprah.
The decision not to cut off the federal government’s $300 unemployment addendum, Beshear explained, was due to those additional dollars now having an energizing effect on the state’s pandemic slammed economy that over the last 18 months has obviously been sinking as fast and as surely as Titanic.
Eligibility qualifications for the return-to-work inducement, which he additionally explained will be closely monitored and verified by both the state and employer, include the person having received unemployment benefits in weeks this year, be at least 18 years of age or older, return to the workforce by July 30, and work a minimum of 120 hours during his/her first four weeks back on the job.
If you’ll recall, a few weeks back I pointed out how people of all ages and persuasions have been staying away from the workplace like it was a cannibal retreat being run by the Donner Party, or words to that effect.
I also pointed out how countless businesses have been trying to entice people with everything but the gold in Fort Knox to come back to work and fill the critical worker shortages.
I validated that statement by pointing out how a particular McDonald’s franchise owner in Florida had offered people $50 just to fill out an application and come in for an interview, and how another franchise owner in Oklahoma had been offering people the latest iPhone as an incentive to go to work for him.
I told you about business owners in every state — particularly retail store and restaurant owners — having to limit services or shutter their doors altogether due to not having enough employees to operate.
I mentioned how a great deal of this worker shortage had to do with something as simple as people choosing to stay at home and live off unemployment benefits that quite obviously compensate them better than a job would — particularly one in retail.
And finally, I balanced the unjustifiable with the justifiable by telling you that some of the problem could be defended due to contingencies like parents being unable to afford adequate childcare, or them even being unable to work anywhere because of having to homeschool their kids.
Whether it’s because other sources of money have become as easily picked as low-hanging fruit, whether it’s because of reasonable childcare issues, whether it’s because continued fear of the pandemic is keeping parents out the workforce and their children out of a normal classroom setting, or simply, whether it’s a combination of all these reasons, the problem of getting people back to work has been anything but an easy riddle to solve.
So much so, it has led to a neighboring state seeing no other alternative but to dangle yet another carrot under the noses of people just to entice them out their holes and back into the workplace.
Will Gov. Jim Justice make a similar move in West Virginia? Maybe. If it works in Kentucky and states like Arizona and Connecticut then you can probably expect some type of comparable motivational ploy to be implemented not only in the Mountain State but also other states not yet doing so that likewise are currently struggling to get people back to work.
But the obvious question is: If Justice and other governors do follow suit, like Beshear and some of the others before them, will they likewise be setting a bad precedent to which their states will forevermore be unbreakably hogtied?
Unlike the cartoon kid frustratingly wanting to know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world (that is, we), may never really know for sure.
But unlike the cartoon kid, in this case blissful ignorance might leave a better taste in our mouths than we might otherwise get by finding out for certain.