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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The staff shortfalls Americans are finding as they head to restaurants and summer vacation spots illustrate the risk for Democrats over whether the government's extra $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits is to blame.

Why it matters: Twenty-five states — all run by Republican governors — are eliminating some or all of the UI benefits. Some are even offering back-to-work bonuses to further encourage a return to work. Expect the results to become midterm fodder next year.

  • “While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and potential 2024 candidate for president.
  • As of now, most Democratic lawmakers argue there are more factors contributing to the staff shortages — notably child care, especially for women, according to several members of Congress who spoke to Axios.
  • Yet many Democrats are increasingly willing to admit they may have gotten it wrong, and fear the spike in activity this summer will generate a backlash among their constituents.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said he thinks the states rescinding the extra money will serve as a test case for the two parties.

  • "I can't deny that it appears to be having a significant impact, particularly on the hospitality industry," King added. "(The enhanced UI) is helping to support the economy. On the other hand, is it impeding job growth? I don’t know. We’ll have to find out."
  • He added that, as former governor of Maine, he believes states should have "wide discretion to make their own decisions."

Driving the news: Last week, President Biden said he wouldn't seek to extend the UI program beyond September, when it's set to expire. White House press secretary Jen Psaki went a step further, making clear governors “have every right” to “not accept” the extra benefits.

  • Some of the cuts will be offset for eligible families when they begin receiving Child Tax Credit expansion checks on July 15. The checks are worth up to $300 per month for children under 6, and up to $250 for children from age 6 to 17.
  • The White House's comments came despite allied lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) imploring the administration to continue providing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits to all eligible workers regardless of governors' mandates.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), former governor of Virginia: "We were trying to basically solve a once-in-a-century health pandemic that completely ravaged the economy. I think we did a very good job at it. Was everything calibrated perfectly? I don't know that I'd say that."
    • "I'm not questioning decisions that governors are making about it. I think if there's solid evidence that there's a disincentive, then governors may curb back. But I'm not exactly sure that that evidence is strong and uniform everywhere in the country."
  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.): “There are a lot of reasons why some people have been reluctant to come back to work. Not the least of which is ... complicated child care challenges."
    • "These extended benefits were never supposed to be permanent, and if the economy comes back online, it certainly makes sense to pare them back to normal size.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the $300 payment is per week, not per month.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

America fought the pandemic economy — and won

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. economy is emerging from the pandemic with more well-paying jobs for those who want them, less hunger, less poverty, higher wages, less inequality, and more wealth for everyday Americans.

Why it matters: None of these outcomes were expected when the pandemic began. All of them are the result of massive government programs.

First look: Biden's economic case for green cards

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) is promoting the economic benefits and costs of providing green cards to millions of unauthorized immigrants in a blog post being released on Friday, according to a draft provided to Axios.

Why it matters: The post comes as the fate of millions of immigrants, including those with Temporary Protected Status or DACA protections, rests with Congress — and the Senate parliamentarian.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.