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Montana Gov Pulls State Out of Federal COVID Unemployment Programs, Cites Worker Shortage

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Montana is taking a bold step to get people back to work as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday that Montanans will no longer be eligible for federal COVID-19 pandemic-related unemployment benefits programs, which he is attributing to the state’s labor shortage.

Instead, Montana is creating a program that will provide bonuses if people return to work, Fox News reported.

“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,” the governor said in a news release.

“Incentives matter,” he said, “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.”


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He is hoping that the “Return to Work” program will revive the state’s economy by bringing more people back into the workforce.

“Industries across Montana face a severe labor shortage. We must create incentives for Montanans to get back into the workforce. Today I announced Montana will end participation in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs and launch a ‘Return to Work’ bonus program,” the governor tweeted.

Should other states follow Montana’s lead?

The program will offer $1,200 to anybody receiving unemployment benefits as of Monday who takes up a job after they complete four weeks’ worth of work.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic, but many lower-wage employees decided to continue taking unemployment benefits that often paid better instead of returning to work once they were able.

Montana Commissioner of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau noted that despite unemployment being relatively low, there seem to be fewer people actively searching for work.

“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,” Esau said in the news release.

According to the release, “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.”


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As of June 27, the state is reverting back to the pre-pandemic requirement that people must be actively seeking work to receive unemployment insurance.

While Gianforte’s decision might come across as insensitive to Democrats, this was the right choice to help revive Montana’s economy.

Montana’s coronavirus case numbers are relatively low, and vaccinations are now available to every American age 16 and over, meaning that people will not be able to justify public health concerns as cause for not returning to work very soon.

In order for the private sector to be revitalized, it’s crucial that people who are able to work do so.

Other states looking for a post-pandemic economic boom should look toward this latest development in Montana for ideas, as a strong labor force is essential.

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