LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Businesses are having a hard time finding workers as Kentucky comes out of the pandemic.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said extra federal unemployment benefits aren’t helping.
“We’d be in better shape if the governor had made a decision to discontinue the federal bonus,” McConnell said Monday during a stop at the UPS Air Group facility in Louisville.
Twenty-six states are ending the $300 a week pandemic unemployment benefit; all but one of them are led by Republican governors.
Gov. Andy Beshear is keeping the benefit and instead offering a 1,500 bonus to people who find work in the next month.
McConnell isn’t a fan of Beshear’s strategy, calling it “more of the same.”
“I wouldn’t do it that way. I think the simplest way to do it — it’s working in 25 other states; in Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio — discontinue the bonus and I think you’ll see significant numbers of people interested in going back to work,” McConnell said.
Beshear said ending the benefit will ultimately hurt the economy and hasn’t actually led to more people looking for work in states where they’ve tried it.
“The incentive program is the right direction that balances compassion for our people, economic principles and the needs of our employers, who urged the governor to offer an incentive to Kentuckians to return to the workforce,” Beshear spokesman Sebastian Kitchen said in an emailed response to McConnell’s comments.
Beshear also previously said it’ll hurt people who can’t find work due to a lack of child care or other factors.
McConnell spoke with business leaders on Monday, including Sarah Davasher-Wisdom of Greater Louisville Inc., who said the unemployment benefit is hurting child care centers too.
“As child care centers are trying to reopen, we’re seeing that they’re facing some of those same workforce challenges that our businesses are facing,” she said.
McConnell’s appearance comes as Congress is trying to figure out an infrastructure deal.
He wants to keep the discussion focused on what he believes is infrastructure instead of a larger bill President Biden is pursuing, one that would include investments in education and child care.
“I don’t know how many times I need to repeat this: we are playing Russian Roulette with the American economy,” McConnell said. “Last year, we had a 100-year pandemic. Understandable. An emergency. The pandemic is essentially in the rear-view mirror and to continue to borrow and spend at this level is completely unacceptable.”
McConnell said he’s still looking at details of a plan negotiating by a bipartisan group of senators recently, but he’s hopeful lawmakers will reach an agreement soon.
He doesn’t expect the bill to have money specifically earmarked for the Brent Spence Bridge. He blamed state lawmakers for failing to put state money into repairs and other improvements for the bridge between Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.