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Extra Unemployment Funds Partly Blamed For Unfilled Jobs

Are the extra payments on unemployment keeping people from returning to the workforce? Some area leaders believe that is at least part of the case.

In an interview, state Assemblyman Andy Goodell noted that there are a number reasons why he believes people haven’t returned. Among them:

¯ Some parents can’t go to work because their schools have not fully reopened. “Businesses are reopening ahead of schools that leaves some parents without childcare,” he said.

¯ Many receiving more in unemployment than they would earn in an entry level job. “You can’t expect people to search for work and rejoin the labor force when it costs them more money for childcare and transportation and they’re going earn less working than they are unemployed,” he said.

¯ Some people are still afraid of getting COVID. “As the amount of people are vaccinated and numbers continue to plummet, that fear will subside,” he predicted.

¯ Some people who are out of work don’t have the skills for the jobs that are available, particularly those higher skilled jobs.

¯ Some people received more cash than the federal government than they ever have in their recent memory which Goodell said “enables them to stay home and enjoy life without having to work.”

Right now Goodell is developing a brochure that lists where the jobs are, as well as various places to go to seek jobs. He’s also working to partner with job trainers, such as Jamestown Community College and Jamestown Business College, and identify funding sources so that people who want to be trained can do so.

State Sen George Borrello believes the pandemic unemployment relief needs to come to an end. “We are incubating this, intentional or not, with massive amounts of government spending,” he said.

Borrello said giving residents additional unemployment funding hurts businesses in two ways: One, they struggle to be open if they don’t have enough employees; second, it’s the businesses that are forced to pay extra. “All those businesses now that are struggling to hire people are watching their unemployment insurance bills sky rocket 200 to 300 percent,” he said.

Borrello noted that many businesses, such as Wells Enterprises in Dunkirk and Jamestown Container are offering large signing bonuses and offer good paying jobs with family-sustaining wages. “This is not about minimum wage jobs,” he said.

County Executive PJ Wendel noted that he is in regular contact with manufacturing companies who say they’re willing to train people. There’s been times when job training has been offered free of charge but the trainings are canceled when people don’t sign up for them. “That’s discouraging. That’s not Chautauqua County. We have a very robust workforce and we need to get back to that,” he said.

He also agrees that the extra unemployment funds have been difficult for manufacturers to compete with. “People found out they were better off to go on unemployment, so that’s where many people went,” he said. “We need to instill those values of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

Todd Tranum, President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier, wrote about the plethora of help wanted signs in the county last week in his weekly Chamber Corner column, which is published every weekend in the OBSERVER and Post-Journal.

“Developing our workforce has long been a challenge in our region. While the pandemic and subsequent unemployment changes may be playing a short-term role in the numbers of job applicants, that’s just a part of the full picture. The issues at play in our workforce woes pre-pandemic still exist. They include a variety of social issues such as addiction and transportation problems, as well as a lack of skills in the labor market,” he wrote.

In an interview, Tranum said he believes this problem of finding employees is not unique to Chautauqua County. “It’s a national challenge, in terms of workforce. We’ve got a lot of education and training infrastructure. We need to figure better way to harness it,” he said.

Another problem is Chautauqua County’s aging workforce and declining population, which is why the Chamber is pushing to bring former residents back to the area. “We want to make this an appealing place to do business and an appealing place to come to and settle down and raise a family,” said Tranum.

Right now, it appears the extra $300 unemployment, which is a federal benefit, is set to expire in September. Also, the state extended residential evictions, and limited commercial evictions, until Aug. 31.

Borrello believes these programs need to end. “The American people need to realize we are borrowing ourselves into oblivion,” he said.

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