Gov. Cox announces end date for pandemic unemployment benefits

In this January 2021 file photo, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks at the Utah State Capitol. Jan. 8, 2021, Salt Lake City, Utah | Associated Press file photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — Encouraged by positive job growth, Gov. Spencer Cox announced the discontinuation of the federal unemployment programs tied to the pandemic as part of the federal stimulus package.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the $300 weekly stimulus payment, as well as the other federal unemployment programs, will end June 26.

“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Cox said in the press release. “I believe in the value of work. With the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.9% and plenty of good paying jobs available today, it makes sense to transition away from these extra benefits that were never intended to be permanent. The market should not be competing with government for workers.”

Approximately 28,000 Utahns are currently receiving this additional $300-per-week federal benefit. Of those, 11,000 are receiving federal extended benefits, 2,500 individuals receive federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 200 receive federal Mixed-Earner Unemployment Compensation. Currently, federal pandemic unemployment assistance in Utah totals $12.4 million a week.

With the state’s economic recovery in full swing, there is no shortage of jobs in Utah, the press release stated. The Department of Workforce Services website has 50,000 available job openings, while job listings aggregator Help Wanted shows 72,000 available jobs in Utah.

“As employers compete for workers, we are ready to help those local businesses recruit and hire employees,” said Casey Cameron, executive director of the Department of Workforce Services. “For job seekers, we can provide career coaching, education assistance, job search help and more, either online or in-person at an employment center. For many workers, this transition can be a great time to gain additional skills and open doors to new opportunities.”

Utah’s business community has applauded the move, the press release states.

“All across Utah, in a variety of industries, we are seeing the significant need for new employees,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance.

Miller said the challenge that Utah’s economy currently faces is not the scarcity of well-paying jobs, but the lack of workers.

“For our state to remain a national economic leader and for our communities to be prosperous, we need to normalize the labor market by assisting those currently unemployed to find opportunities to rejoin the workforce as soon as possible.”

Through the Learn and Work program, the state of Utah and the Utah System of Higher Education have dedicated $16.5 million to help more than 5,700 individuals get training and find better employment opportunities. Over the next several weeks an additional $15 million will be awarded to training institutions throughout the state to help those who want to upgrade their skills to enhance employment opportunities.

Funding is also available for career and education advancement through Workforce Services.

For those still struggling due to the pandemic, other safety net programs are available such as rent, utility, food and medical assistance. For more information about additional pandemic relief programs and details about the federal unemployment insurance programs ending, click here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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