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Commentary: Where Are the Workers?

Commentary by Stefani E. Buhajla originally published by

These days, storefronts are adorned with “Now Hiring” and “Help Wanted” signs. Local family-owned businesses and restaurants are announcing reduced business hours and even closures, often citing a lack of employees. And many post signs imploring customers to be patient as fewer workers mean longer wait times.

A new jobs report released this week shows there are now more than 11 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. Where have the workers gone? Thanks to the Biden administration, millions are staying at home, where they’re given financial incentives not to return to the workforce. What started off as temporary measures to alleviate the pains of the pandemic have instead become a nearly two-year economic reality.

Under the auspices of an ongoing national emergency, the Biden administration continues to extend welfare benefits. With no need to work, millions of Americans are foregoing a job with wages for a government paycheck. According to the latest labor statistics, there are nearly 3 million workers missing from the workforce compared to when the pandemic first began, and labor force participation rates are still falling. This is unsustainable.

In August 2021, the Biden administration announced a 25 percent increase in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — food stamps — adding $20 billion to the already staggering $79 billion in costs annually. With millions of Americans no longer needing to buy their own food, there is no urgency to find employment.

Meanwhile, the federal government has suspended work search requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents enrolled in the food stamp program. This further discourages potential jobseekers from obtaining the kind of employment that allows them to develop important skills, build self-esteem, and provide for their families. When businesses are struggling to hire employees, higher wages and benefits can only do so much — especially when the government pays as much or more.

The states, as the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, serve as “laboratories” for our way of governing. It is here we discover what works and what doesn’t, what should be replicated on a national level and what should be avoided. On the matter of work, the stark differences in policy outcomes could not be clearer.

In Michigan, residents on unemployment are only obligated to conduct one job-seeking activity per week to receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for up to 20 weeks. The state’s unemployment rate stands at 5.1 percent. Compare this to Utah, which requires a person to submit four job-seeking activities per week. Utah’s unemployment rate stands at 2.3 percent.

With little help from the federal government, states are forced to take matters into their own hands. In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed cutting the number of weeks of unemployment benefits from 26 to 16 while increasing the number of job-seeking activities beneficiaries must do. Legislators are moving on this reform, and business leaders have heralded the bill as a desperately needed solution to ease the worker shortage.

Existing efforts to undo the damage caused by ever-extending federal benefits have been commendable. But much more must be done before it’s too late.

Never has it been more important to bring commonsense reforms to our safety net programs. We must establish and enforce work requirements for food stamps and unemployment insurance. This should include accountability measures that verify individuals are truly seeking employment, as well as caps on the duration of benefits for working-age, able-bodied adults.

We know that the dignity of work is so crucial to an individual’s confidence. Jobs build the skills necessary to advance in rewarding careers. They allow us to pursue our dreams of things like home ownership and caring for our families. And the longer people stay out of the workforce, the harder it will be for them to return once their benefits finally run out.

We must not wait. The COVID-19 pandemic created extraordinary circumstances that upended our entire economy. But, nearly two years later, we must demand a return to normalcy for our workforce. And if the Biden administration won’t do what it takes to get more people back to work, state leaders must act instead. Our country’s future depends upon it.

Stefani E. Buhajla is the communications director for the Foundation for Government Accountability.

Deneen Borelli

Deneen Borelli is the author of Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation. Deneen is a contributor with Newsmax Broadcasting. She is a former Fox News contributor and has appeared regularly on “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” and “America’s Newsroom.” She has also appeared on Fox Business Network programs “Making Money with Charles Payne,” “The Evening Edit with Liz MacDonald,” and “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” Previously, Deneen appeared on MSNBC, CNN, the BBC and C-SPAN. In addition to television, Deneen co-hosted radio programs on the SiriusXM Patriot channel with her husband Tom. Recently, Deneen co-hosted the Reigniting Liberty podcast with Tom. Deneen is a frequent speaker at political events, including the FreedomWorks 9.12.2009 March on D.C. which drew a crowd estimated at over 800,000 people. Deneen is also an Ambassador with, a social media platform that promotes free speech, and with the America First Policy Institute (AFPI) which advances policies that put Americans first. Deneen testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in May 2011 and before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in December 2011. Previously, Deneen was a host, Outreach Director with overseeing its outreach program, a Project 21 Senior Fellow, and Manager of Media Relations with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Prior to joining CORE, Deneen worked at Philip Morris USA for 20 years. During her corporate career at Philip Morris she worked in various positions, her last as Project Management Coordinator in the Information Management department where she was responsible for the department’s mandated quality processes, communications, sales information and database management. Deneen began her Philip Morris career as a secretary and advanced to positions of increasing responsibilities. Deneen worked full-time and attended classes at night for 11 years to earn her B.A. in Managerial Marketing from Pace University, New York City. Deneen served on the Board of Trustees with The Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, New York. She appeared in educational videos for children, worked as a runway fashion model, and auditioned for television commercials. Her interests include ancient history, pistol target shooting, photography, and volunteering at her church. Deneen currently resides in Connecticut with her husband Tom.

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