Texas Gov. Abbott defends determination to finish Covid unemployment increase

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday defended his decision to end the state’s federal unemployment boost after thousands of people signed a petition asking the Republican official to reverse his move.

“We have the demand for the workforce where people can get back to work, and the numbers are safe enough in our state for people to get back to work,” Abbott said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“It is time for America to get back to work,” the Republican governor said.

Abbott announced earlier this month that, effective June 26, the state would opt out of federal unemployment assistance programs that were signed into law in an effort to reduce the economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those programs included a $300 weekly federal supplement to state unemployment benefits. At least 23 states have curtailed their use of federal unemployment programs.

Abbott said he had “math behind this reasoning.”

“According to the Texas Workforce Commission, we have more job openings than we have people on unemployment insurance. And on top of that, 18% of the unemployment claims that have been filed have proven to be fraudulent,” Abbott said.

A majority of Americans support state efforts to end the federal unemployment boost, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found.

In Texas, the decision has caused some blowback from those who say the end to extra assistance will cause further pain to those already suffering. A petition calling for Abbott to reverse his move has gained about 8,000 signatures.

Abbott said Friday that ending the federal boost was crucial to fully opening the state.

“The biggest challenge that I hear from employers is that Texas is open 100%, employers are trying to hire, however, restaurants and stores and other types of businesses aren’t able to open up as much as they want to because they cannot gain access to the employees they need to open up,” he said.

“So one of the biggest challenges we have is making sure that the employers are able to get the employees there so we truly can be a fully open economy,” Abbott said.

Economists are not certain whether the federal unemployment boost is causing potential workers to remain jobless for longer.

A working paper published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco earlier this month suggested the $300 boost could have a small impact on job searchers’ willingness to accept employment offers.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has said he does not believe the $300 boost is causing individuals to turn down jobs.

“Americans want to work,” he said earlier this month.

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