Senator John Thune
Congress has a bad habit of passing legislation that treats the symptoms of our problems rather than the problems themselves. From reauthorizing emergency jobless benefits, to expanding Medicaid, too often the quick fix is the wrong approach, and taking the easy way out merely leads us further from addressing the cause of our problems.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans cited unemployment as their top concern. Their concerns are justified as 3.6 million Americans have been unemployed for six months or longer and the percentage of Americans in the labor force is the lowest we’ve seen since Jimmy Carter was president. All these factors are a clear indicator of why our leaders in Washington need to be looking for ways to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and get these men and women back to work, rather than throwing temporary fixes at our long-term problems.
That’s why on February 25th, I introduced legislation that would actually address the serious problem of long-term unemployment in America. My bill would exempt businesses that hire long-term unemployed individuals from ObamaCare’s mandate to provide health insurance or pay a fine for each uninsured employee. Currently, a key barrier to hiring for small businesses is the fear that adding a new employee will put their business over the threshold for ObamaCare-mandated insurance coverage. This legislation would remove the barrier for long-term unemployed individuals by eliminating the ObamaCare burdens and costs associated with hiring these workers.
My bill would also enact a six-month employer-side payroll tax holiday for each long-term unemployed individual hired. For an employee hired with a $40,000 salary, that represents a $1,240 incentive to hire a long-term unemployed individual, which will help break the cycle of unemployment for those millions of Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
The legislation would provide a one-time, low-interest loan up to $10,000 for a long-term unemployed individual to relocate to start a new job. It would also streamline and improve job training by including the House-passed SKILLS Act, which would consolidate 35 federal employment and training programs and create a Workforce Investment Fund to serve as a single source of support for employers, workers, and job seekers at the state level.The largest ladder of opportunity for low- and middle-income families has always been broad and sustained economic growth. No matter how you spin it, no matter what government benefit you try to throw at it, there is no substitute for a job. Congress needs to start working on real solutions that will create jobs, better train America’s workforce, and break the cycle of chronic high unemployment. I will continue working with my colleagues to move this legislation forward and to start tackling the causes of our long-term economic problems, instead of simply treating the symptoms.