PRESIDENT Joe Biden has warned that anyone receiving unemployment who is offered a "reasonable job" must take it or face losing their benefit payments.
Speaking from the White House on Monday, Biden's remarks follow on from a disappointing jobs report released on Friday which found the US economy added just 260,000 jobs in April – far less than the million projected.
Since the release of the report, employers have said they're finding it difficult to hire workers, and Republicans say that's because expanded benefits under Biden's Covid relief plan means some could now earn more by staying at home, rather than working.
"We're going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment, who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said.
The president continued there are a "few Covid-19 exceptions" to the rule "so that nobody is forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck, but otherwise, that's the law."
Biden also dismissed claims that people could earn more by staying home and collecting unemployment, insisting: "Americans want to work."
"I know there's been a lot of discussion since Friday, since Friday's report, that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work. Well, we don't see much evidence of that," he added.
"I think the people [who] claim Americans won't work, even if they find a good and fair opportunity, underestimate the American people."
Despite Biden's assurances, experts have estimated that anyone making less than $32,000 before the pandemic struck last March could now earn more by staying home.
A year before the pandemic, in March 2019, the average weekly check to an unemployed American was $349 when combining federal and state payments.
That almost tripled to $938 in March 2020 after then-President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law, which also released the first round of stimulus payments to Americans.
The CARES Act expired in July and unemployment was reduced to $638, which will last until at least September 6.
As a result, someone who was working 40 hours per week now gets around $16-per-hour in unemployment payments, which is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Bank of America estimates that anyone who earned $32,000 before the pandemic can now get more when combining state and federal unemployment benefits.
Unemployment can also now be claimed for up to 39 weeks of the year, opposed to the previous cap of 26 weeks.
Furthermore, the average salary in the United State for 2019 was $31,113.
Despite the disappointing jobs report and the mounting criticism from GOP lawmakers, Biden sought to assure on Monday that his "economic plan is working."
"I never said — and no serious analyst ever suggested — that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy is in would be simple, easy, immediate, or perfectly studied," he said.
"Some months will exceed expectations, some will fall short."
Biden pushed back on the suggestion that funds from his America Rescue Plan were being abused and encouraged employers to offer competitive wages to tempt Americans back into the workforce.
"My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they'll find plenty of workers. And we're all going to come out of this together and better than before," he said.
"No one should be allowed to game the system."
Biden added that while he takes allegations of benefit fraud seriously, the government cannot "turn our backs" on the 22 million Americans that lost their jobs during the pandemic.
The president instead blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for the current state of the economy, insisting his administration "bungled" its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak and its fallout.
"We'll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits. But we're not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans," Biden said.
"Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic through no fault of their own. They lost their jobs to a virus, and to a government that bungled its response to the crisis and failed to protect them."
Unemployment has shrunk from 16 percent last April to the current rate of 6.1 percent, but that number is still nearly double the unemployment rate in March 2019 – a year before the pandemic.
This week, the number of people being put out of work shrank, with 500,000 claiming unemployment for the first time as opposed to around six million at the peak of the crisis.
Last week, 550,000 new claims for unemployment were made.
Currently, around 9.7 million Americans are claiming some form of unemployment aid.
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