Brushing off low jobs growth, Biden enhances American Rescue Plan

The White House on Monday announced new measures to put Americans back to work after a drop in the most recent jobs report left many to question the Administration’s economic recovery plans.

The White House announced new guidance on various programs included in the American Rescue Plan, and directed federal agencies to assist states in workforce development. The Administration also initiated the first round of funding for state and local governments and for restaurants and bars provided in the Rescue Plan.

 U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs in April. This is a sizable decrease from the half a million jobs added in each of the first three months of the year, but is still far higher than the 60,000 jobs added in the last three months of 2020.

President Biden on Friday delivered remarks responding to the jobs report, noting that despite signs of a strong recovery, the economy has yet to recover all the 22 million jobs lost during the Covid-19 pandemic – It is still 8 million jobs short.

While Biden acknowledged some employers were “having trouble filling jobs,” he said the larger problem was people who were having difficulty finding work. “Many more workers would like to return to work if they can overcome the barriers that stand in the way,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House, in a summary of the jobs report on Friday also noted that as the economy recovers, “ month-to-month job growth can be volatile.”

“The question is, ‘What is the trendline? Are we headed in the right direction? Are we taking the right steps to keep it going?’ And the answer, clearly, is yes,” Biden said in remarks on Monday.

Biden also noted that since the April jobs report was conducted “around the week of April 12th” Covid-19 infection rates have fallen and vaccination rates have increased.

Asked on Friday whether “enhanced unemployment benefits had any effect on diminishing a return to work,” Biden answered flatly: “No. Nothing measurable.”

The American Rescue Plan had extended federal unemployment benefits of $300 weekly to September 6, 2021.

On Monday, the White House clarified the purpose of the Unemployment Insurance (IU) program, saying “A core purpose of the UI program is helping workers get back to work, and the UI provides laid-off workers with temporary assistance to help pay bills and relieve hardship.”

“Anyone receiving UI who is offered a suitable job must take it or lose their UI benefits,” the President and Administration reaffirmed in a statement.

The White House has directed the Department of Labor to clarify the use of all UI programs and to work with states to reinstate work search requirements, among other assistance to state workforce development programs.

There were over half a million people, majority women, who left the labor force due to disruptions in childcare. The White House noted that there are 150,000 fewer childcare jobs than there were at the start of the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be issuing guidance on how states can begin to disseminate the $39 billion provided under the American Rescue Plan to support the child care industry and subsidize childcare for the 800,000 families with “the greatest need.”  

The White House also noted the “historic” expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC).

Of the jobs lost during the pandemic, 1.6 million were from state and local governments. There are still 1.3 million less of these public sector jobs, the White House said.

The American Rescue Plan includes $350 billion for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments “to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs.”

“With today’s announcement the U.S. Department of Treasury is making the first segment of these funds available to states and localities and laying out how these funds can be used to address pandemic-response needs and support the communities and populations hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis,” the White House said.

And to assist small businesses to rehire and retain workers, the American Rescue Plan extended and expanded the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). According to the White House, “30,000 small businesses have already claimed more than $1 billion in ERCs this year.”

To raise awareness of the program, “the Treasury Department will disseminate clear and concise steps on how businesses can determine their eligibility and claim the ERC,” the White House said.

Finally, the Biden administration will be sending the first grants under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to the 16,000 “hardest-hit restaurants” after over 186,000 eligible businesses applied for the program within its first two days of operation.  

“These grants will give restaurants and bars [and food trucks] the flexibility to hire back workers at good wages,” the White House said.

Biden on Friday said the American Rescue Plan was meant “to get us back to where we were” over the course of 2021, not within the span of a few months.

“But that’s not nearly enough,” he added, “we have to build back better” – “that’s why we need” the American Jobs Plan. 

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