Unemployment benefits will soon be ending amid mixed reactions

INDIANAPOLIS—Mixed reactions followed Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement Monday that federally funded unemployment benefits soon will end for Hoosiers even though they’re not officially cut off until September. 

Starting June 19, the extra $300 the state’s unemployed saw each week will disappear from their checks. In addition, starting June 1, the state will reinstate a suspended requirement that Hoosiers requesting unemployment benefits must be looking for a full-time job. Other benefits that will be taken away include extended insurance benefits after 26 weeks and benefits to the self-employed, gig workers and contractors. 

About 220,000 Hoosiers will either see a reduction in benefits or stop getting any. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb unveils his 2021 legislative agenda, including addressing the impact of the pandemic on Indiana, at the virtual Dentons Legislative Conference last year. This week, Holcomb announced an end to federal unemployment benefits for Hoosiers. Photo by Erica Irish, TheStatehouseFile.com.

“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” Holcomb said in a statement.

Indiana’s unemployment rate currently stands at 3.9%. The most one could make while on unemployment with federal funding during the pandemic was $990 per week; someone working a full-time minimum wage job earns $290 a week. 

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, has said businesses are going to need to pay more in order to get people to work, according to Indiana Public Media

Democrats agreed. “Indiana Democrats are ready to get to work for Hoosiers, and we hope other Republicans follow Senator Bray’s lead in joining the collective effort to strengthen the state’s workforce—which would include raising the minimum wage. Let’s deliver this commonsense solution to Hoosier families,” Lauren Ganapini, executive director for the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement. 

Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said he worked on a bill this past session that would have raised the Indiana minimum wage to $10 an hour. 

“We need to look at raising our overall wages,” Melton said. 

He doesn’t think Indiana is in the position to be turning away any assistance. 

“We’re still, as a state, trying to navigate our way to recovery,” Melton said. “It’s a bigger picture, a bigger conversation we have to have when we talk about employment and employability.” 

The National Federation of Independent Business is in favor of ending federally funded benefits. 

“Small business owners are pleased that the governor has heard what they have been saying for months,” Barbara Quandt, NFIB senior state director, said in a statement. “Our small business owners want to re-open, and they want to grow the economy. However, they can’t do that if they can’t hire Hoosiers and create jobs.”

Lance Ratliff, executive director for region 5 WorkOne, said there are opportunities for training and programs to help Hoosiers looking for employment. 

“I think people will be more active in the job search,” Ratliff said. 

Currently, about 892,000 Hoosiers work a minimum wage job. Hoosiers that work a full-time minimum wage job earn about $15,080 per year. The average cost of living in Indiana is cheaper than the U.S. average, with the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Indiana being $662 a month. The poverty line for a family of four is $26,500 a year, and the annual cost for child care is about $12,612.

“We’ve re-emerged from the COVID pandemic, and free vaccinations that protect you from the virus are available throughout the state. The CDC has provided guidance that says vaccinated people can feel secure about not wearing face coverings in many circumstances. Daycare facilities are open, and our economy is humming,” Holcomb said in a statement. 

“Indiana also offers free opportunities for Hoosiers to skill up and trade up to better jobs. This is where we will continue to concentrate our efforts so all Hoosiers can get on their pathway to personal prosperity.”

Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.