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Biden urges employers to lift wages, however warns staff that in the event that they refuse jobs, they’ll lose unemployment advantages

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on May 4, 2021 about the Covid-19 response and vaccination program.

Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden called on U.S. companies to raise wages for workers Monday as he outlined the steps his administration is taking to encourage hiring after disappointing job creation in April.

The president said his administration will redistribute more of the coronavirus bailout money contained in the Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion relief plan when companies resume recruiting.

The federal government will allow state and local governments to request a portion of a $ 350 billion pool of aid, streamline aid distribution to daycare and, among other things, send grants to 16,000 restaurants and bars with difficulty.

Biden said the White House “doesn’t see much evidence” that unemployment benefits of $ 300 a week through September kept people from getting work, adding that “Americans want to work”.

Nevertheless, anyone “who offers a suitable job must accept the job or lose their unemployment benefits” unless they have specific concerns about Covid-19.

The president has required employers, who have accepted federal relief, to offer decent wages, protect workers from the virus, and promote vaccination so Americans feel comfortable when they take on work.

“I expect that with the return of our economy, these companies will offer fair wages and a safe working environment,” Biden said in a remark at the White House. “And if you do that, you will find a lot of workers.”

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The US non-farm workforce rose 266,000 in April, well below expectations of around 1 million job creation as the unemployment rate rose to 6.1%. Friday’s report raised questions about how companies can attract workers into a reopening economy and what role the government should play in promoting recruitment.

Biden downplayed slow growth, saying the economy was “moving in the right direction”.

However, the president said the disappointing data showed the need to increase vaccinations against Covid-19 and adopt its infrastructure and recovery plans. Democrats have said parts of its proposals, including provisions to expand affordable childcare and paid vacation, will make it easier for parents to get jobs.

Increasing childcare capacity, reopening schools and increasing vaccination rates should help alleviate recruitment problems, Biden said Monday.

Republicans and business groups have questioned the need to raise unemployment benefits by $ 300 a week as much of the country prepares to lift economic restrictions. Payments were extended as part of the Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion pandemic aid package.

Critics of the improved benefits claim they discourage Americans from taking jobs that may not pay them as much as unemployment insurance. A lack of care options for job seekers and security concerns as the virus likely played a major role as well.

A White House fact sheet released Monday said: “Workers may not be able to turn down and continue to receive benefits due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19.” People could turn down an offer and stay unemployed if they have a child at home who can’t go to school because of the virus or if an employer fails to meet federal or state health standards, among other things, the administration said.

As the Democrats draft an economic recovery bill and Biden prepares to negotiate with the Republicans, the president’s plans may not get through Congress for weeks or months. The White House may also have to withdraw proposals to get approval in the Capitol, even under special budget rules that would only require democratic votes.

Another Biden priority that could get employers to raise wages – a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour – didn’t make it into the coronavirus aid package earlier this year. An independent bill to increase the lower wage limit is facing great chances of approval from the Senate.

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