We know this is a crucial time for business in our state, as we begin to emerge from a pandemic to compete for a wave of newly unleashed demand. We know also that many of you are facing critical challenges finding the talent you need, even as we look toward a busy summer season that is often the highest earning period in some industries. You need solutions to these challenges now, not six months from now.
In recent weeks, the Chamber has joined with some of our closest partners in the aligned business community to propose solutions and urge our elected leaders to take action that brings our current workforce crisis to a decisive end. Yesterday, we publicized a joint statement signaling our commitment to remain united in this engagement until our leaders can agree to a meaningful resolution that gets more North Carolinians back to work.
Read our joint statement here.
We won’t pretend there is a single, easy answer to this crisis. Experts have been flummoxed by the uneven recovery on display during this unique rebalancing period for our economy. There are likely multiple factors driving the labor crunch, from parents struggling to find adequate childcare to widespread reassessments by workers about their post-pandemic career paths. Many economists, however, remain convinced that federally enhanced unemployment benefits are a key factor delaying a return to work for many claimants in state unemployment insurance (UI) systems.
The Chamber and our partners in the business community were disappointed to learn of the hesitation among some state leaders to even consider ending our reliance on these federal benefits, as leaders in many competing states are opting to do. These federal programs, we believe, were structured for a very different moment, when we were facing the worst of COVID-19 and widespread shutdowns caused whole industries to close shop and forced many workers out of a job. We are at an entirely new moment with the virus now.
In our current environment, the NC Chamber believes our state’s UI programs are again the best option to provide the unemployment support North Carolinians need and empower those who can work to return to the workforce quickly. After mismanagement and overspending on UI payments during the Great Recession, many state leaders worked hard – with the dedicated support of groups like the NC Chamber – to pass reforms that brought us out from under a growing federal UI debt and restored solvency to our system. Those measures, in turn, helped us build a reserve that now keeps UI taxes competitive for job creators while maintaining ample funds to assist out-of-work North Carolinians. And as it turns out, that prudent approach has proved crucial in helping North Carolina navigate the financial obstacles of COVID-19 better than many states.
The Chamber will continue to push for solutions that support the long-term solvency of our UI fund and that keep us prepared, financially, for the unforeseen. However, we will not let hesitancy to end federal UI benefits stop us from engaging with elected leaders to ensure they enact workable solutions. Together with our partners in the business community, we promise to remain at the policy table until our leaders agree on a resolution that can get North Carolina back to work in full – one that empowers businesses like yours to grow and thrive as we put the worst of this pandemic behind us.
We will keep you updated with any new developments as we work toward this resolution.