Biden Directly Confronts Republicans’ Accusations That Unemployment Benefits Keep People Unemployed

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden addressed Tuesday a now-common Republican argument that expanded unemployment benefits are keeping Americans unemployed.

April’s jobs report saw the country add just 266,000 jobs for the month – a number far lower than the one million forecasted by economists. The report buoyed arguments from Republicans pushing to roll back the enhancements, but the administration is holding strong, with Biden asserting that the plan “is working.”

“I never said, and no serious analyst ever suggested, that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate or perfectly steady,” the president said during remarks on the economy Tuesday. (RELATED: April Job Growth Was Far Short Of Expectations. Here’s Why Hiring Slowed)

The president suggested those making these claims about unemployment “underestimate the American people.” He also promised that the administration plans to “make it clear” that individuals getting unemployment benefits can’t refuse a suitable job, minus “a few COVID-19 related exceptions.”

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work,” Biden said, directly confronting a Republican argument on the subject. “Well, we don’t see much evidence of that.”

“As my dad used to say, ‘A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, your place in the community, being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘everything is going to be okay,'” Biden continued. “I think the people who claim Americans won’t work, even if they find a good and fair opportunity, underestimate the American people. So we will insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits but we are not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans.”


The president didn’t elaborate on how the administration has determined that there isn’t evidence of enhanced unemployment affecting jobs and later declared again that “the law is clear.”

“If you’re receiving unemployment benefits and you’re offered a suitable job, you can’t refuse that job and just keep getting the unemployment benefits,” Biden said.

Shortly after the president’s speech, the White House issued a press release reiterating his comments and noting that the Department of Labor plans to “reaffirm longstanding UI requirements.”

“Specifically, the Secretary of Labor will issue a letter to states to reaffirm that individuals receiving UI may not continue to receive benefits if they turn down a suitable job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19.  In addition, the President is directing the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate work search requirements for UI recipients, if health and safety conditions allow,” the White House noted.

These clarifications point out that anyone operating under UI programs can’t “turn down a job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19 and continue to receive benefits” and can’t “misreport a COVID-related reason for unemployment,” according to the notice.

Biden’s comments come as Republican officials continue pushing against pandemic unemployment benefits. Multiple states, such as Montana and Arkansas, recently announced cancellations of pandemic benefits, CNN reported.