Two new polls show voters in New Hampshire and across the nation support the decision by Republican governors like Chris Sununu to end the flow of federal bonus unemployment benefits amid a job market in which businesses are begging for workers.
In early May when New Hampshire’s Sununu announced he would end federal supplemental unemployment benefits and instead use the money to fund $500/$1,000 return-to-work bonuses, Granite State progressives denounced the plan.
“While some Granite Staters may have recovered financially from the pandemic, many others have not,” Dawn McKinney, policy director for New Hampshire Legal Assistance said. “Prematurely ending the 100 percent federally funded unemployment programs will hurt the families who can least afford it.”
The activist group Raise Up NH released a statement “firmly reject[ing] the stripping of safety net programs from individuals… Individuals are right not to risk their health and safety for a job that will just keep them in poverty, and they are right to want a living wage.”
And Mindi Messmer, a former Democratic lawmaker and member of the New Hampshire Science and Public Health Task Force said prematurely ending the checks could hurt public health.
“About 55 percent of New Hampshire is not fully vaccinated, leaving plenty of room for variants to spread and mutate in the state,” she said at the time.
The benefits ended on June 19, and now the polls are in: The people are with Sununu on this one.
On Monday, a Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey showed 65 percent of voters supported ending New Hampshire’s participation in the bonus federal benefits program, while only 36 percent wanted to see it continued.
Additionally, 77 percent of voters believed Sununu ending the program would assist in easing New Hampshire’s labor shortage.
The poll was taken by more than 1,600 Granite Staters and had a margin of error of 2.4 percent.
Asked about today’s poll, Sununu said “With the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, our policies have seen real results here in New Hampshire. The number of vacant jobs is at an all-time high, and it is imperative we get folks back to work in high-paying jobs, so ending federal unemployment benefits was the right decision for our job-seekers and employers as we move out of the pandemic and back to normal.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan celebrated the Biden administration’s announcement of the additional federal unemployment benefits until September, despite concerns raised by economists the spending was both unnecessary and could be counterproductive. However, she was careful not to criticize Sununu’s decision to end them early, instead saying she’d heard concerns from constituents the federal benefits “were making it easier for people to stay home.”
David Juvet, the senior vice president for public policy at the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, supports Sununu’s decision.
“Right now employers around New Hampshire are experiencing a great deal of difficulty in hiring,” Juvet told NHJournal. “They’re having a hard time getting people through the door, let alone finding qualified individuals. Since these unemployment issues have been rescinded, we’re hearing anecdotally that employers are seeing more people coming through the door. So it seems to be working as we thought it would.”
“Everyone understands that during the height of the pandemic, there were some extraordinary issues that made those extra benefits reasonable and realistic. But as time goes on they seem to be less and less relevant.”
Nationally, the issue isn’t a winner for Democrats, either. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Governors Association released a poll conducted by OnMessage Inc. Monday that showed 62 percent of voters support ending supplemental unemployment benefits early. The same poll showed only 34 percent of Americans want to see the program continued.
A separate poll conducted by the New York Times last week also showed more than half of Americans want supplemental employment benefits ended.
During a roundtable last month at the same time Sununu announced his plans to end the program, business owners across the state excoriated the Biden administration, believing the additional unemployment benefits were disincentivizing people to actually go back to work as we make our way out of the pandemic.
“We have to stop incentivizing people to stay out of work. It’s not good for them. It’s not good for anybody except maybe the Democrats who want to increase social programs,” said Steve Goddu, an advertising agency owner in Concord.
Al Letizio, the owner of a marketing firm in Salem, agreed. “Stop spending our money to incentivize people to not work for us.”