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Edwards says poll validates need to end emergency jobless benefits

Nearly 2 million Americans have turned down jobs because the unemployment benefits are too lucrative — a poll finding  Republican leaders cite as they push a bill to curtail emergency pandemic benefits.

A new poll, conducted by the firm Morning Consult in late June, found that nearly one in three unemployed workers turned down job offers. The expanded unemployment benefits were the second-most-common reason, behind childcare issues. With more than 14 million U.S. workers collecting unemployment checks, the poll found about 1.8 million were likely to have turned down work because of the generous benefits.

The results of the poll lend credence to Republican-led plans to end a COVID-related unemployment benefits program, which was intended to help people through periods of lockdown.

“The data validates the obvious conclusion that most honest observers reached: When government pays people not to work, lots of people don't work,” Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Republican from Henderson County, said in a statement Tuesday.

Federal pandemic unemployment benefits add an additional $300 per week on top of what state programs offer and extend the length of time people can claim benefits by 1 1/2 years.

The program has held back the U.S. economy’s return from COVID-related doldrums. Despite record-setting numbers of job openings, the unemployment lines remain stubbornly long. In North Carolina, unemployed workers continue to receive the additional benefits and will do so until the program expires in September. Until last month, they did not even have to search for work.

In response, roughly half the legislatures across the country have withdrawn their states from the federal pandemic unemployment benefits program, nudging claimants to return to work.

The General Assembly passed such a bill, but Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the measure earlier this month.

The bill, the “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act,” would also have required people receiving unemployment benefits to respond to interview offers from potential employers.

Democrats praised Cooper for vetoing the bill, claiming Republicans were pushing a “false narrative,” as Sen. Wiley Nickel, D-Wake, put it. U.S. Rep. David Price, a N.C. Democrat, said he did not believe the expanded benefits were part of the problem. The new poll appears to contradict the liberal lawmakers.

“Those Democrats were living in a fantasy land,” Edwards said.