Montana Opts Out of Extended Unemployment Benefits, Offers Back-to-Work Bonus Instead

By Susan Jones | May 6, 2021 | 5:14am EDT
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a former U.S. congressman, is opting out of extended federal unemployment benefits for his state. (Photo by William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images)
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a former U.S. congressman, is opting out of extended federal unemployment benefits for his state. (Photo by William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - As businesses struggle to reopen, a shortage of willing workers is among the hurdles many of them face.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, a Republican, blames the labor shortage on the extension of unemployment benefits passed by Congress in COVID relief bills. So he's putting an end to it, opting out of extended unemployment benefits and offering a $1,200 back-to-work bonus instead:

"When I got sworn in, in January, we meet lifted the impractical government mandates," Gianforte told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Wednesday:

We got rid of hours of operation, capacity limits. We got rid of our statewide mask mandate. We put lawsuit protection in place for businesses and nonprofits. And now, as we have opened up, employers can't find workers. It's across all industries. Restaurants are having to shut down for days because they can't find cooks or wait staff.

So we made the decision yesterday these supplemental unemployment benefits, honestly, we got what we incented. We were incenting people not to work. So, we made the decision to opt out of the federal supplemental unemployment benefits, and replace it with a back-to-work bonus.

This is going to help employers. And, honestly, there's dignity in the work. And there's also satisfaction in being self-sufficient. We made that decision yesterday. And we're just getting a phenomenal response from our business community.

Gianforte called the $1,200 bonus a move in the right direction:

"We have about 25,000 people here in Montana on unemployment as of today. If they were on unemployment, all they have to do is go get a job...If they stay at work for four weeks, they get a $1,200 check...They can't then refile for unemployment. So, this is a one-way ticket back into the job force."

Gianforte said he was motivated to act by hearing from small businesses in the state. "They can't open up. We have restaurants that are shutting down a couple days a week because they can't find staff.

"We're coming into tourist season. Americans probably are not going to go to Europe this summer, but they're welcome to come to Montana, enjoy Glacier National Park, maybe get a line wet in one of our trout streams. But if we don't have the wait staff, hotel staff, cooks, carpenters, we're not going to be ready for all the visitors coming to Montana. This is about being array and getting all of Montana back to work."

Gianforte said there are 14,000 jobs open in his state that he knows of, and 25,000 people on unemployment:

"I think nobody starts life thinking, hoping they're going to grow up and become dependent on the government. We need unemployment as a safety net for folks that find themselves in a rough spot. But it shouldn't be a permanent status.

"That's why we're doing away with these supplemental benefits. We're reinstituting work requirements. And we're putting this incentive to go back to work. I'm a free market guy. We should be incenting work, not sitting at home."

The governor added that if a small business fills two open positions and can then expand its hours of operation, "the next thing they do is hire two more people."

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