People Face Tough Decision On Returning To Work As They Make More Money On Unemployment

( While states across the country are moving to relax coronavirus-related restrictions to get life back to normal, there are two other forces at work against getting the economy going again.
One is the fact that some people have fears about returning to work in environments where the spread of germs is next to impossible to contain.
The other is the fact that the boost in unemployment money doled out through the CARES Act is paying a lot of people more money to stay home than they’d make by working.
A recent NPR report detailed both of these situations — where preschool teachers and day-care center workers worry about the spread of germs with kids, and others who work near minimum wage jobs don’t want to take a pay cut to return to work.
One person NPR talked to is Lainy Morse, a preschool teacher who works at a daycare center in Portland, Oregon. Morse told the news outlet that she’s dreading returning to work with how easily kids spread germs. She said:
“They always have snotty faces. It’s just one cold after another. It feels just like an epicenter for spreading disease. And it feels really scary to go back to that.”
In addition to the fear of spreading the coronavirus through this environment, Morse said she’d be taking a pay cut to go back to work. Morse, who has been out of work for two months now, is bringing in more money through Oregon’s state unemployment benefits and the $600 per week the federal government is tacking on top of that.
“It’s terrible to say, but we’re all doing better now,” she told NPR. “It’s hard to think about going back to work in this pandemic and getting paid less than we are right now when we’re safe and at home in quarantine.”
That’s a dilemma that a lot of out-of-work Americans may soon be faced with in the coming weeks. As states re-open and President Donald Trump pushes the economy to jumpstart again, people would have to take less pay to return to a work environment they may not feel safe in. And it may be an obvious choice to stay home at that point.
This also puts employers in a tough spot. NPR talked to Rachel Davis, a consignment shop owner in Missouri. She said she gave her part-time employees a raise from $10 an hour to $11 an hour, but one of her four employees hasn’t come back to work yet. She said;
“I know I shouldn’t take it personally. She’s doing what she feels [is] in her best interest. But as an employer, it actually kind of hurts.”
This is the exact situation that Republicans in Congress feared when they were pressured by Democrats into including the unemployment boost in the CARES Act. But as Democrats are pushing to extend the program, prominent Republicans especially are saying it absolutely cannot happen.
Unemployment benefits, after all, are meant to tide people over while they look for and hopefully get a job. They aren’t meant to serve as an incentive to sit home.