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Herrell opposes additional unemployment benefits

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U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-NM, says she does not support extending pandemic unemployment benefits, blaming the relief money for the high number of unfilled job openings around the nation.

Herrell, of New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, stated her position on the issue Thursday night in response to a question from a constituent during a telephone town hall about unemployment and the workforce shortage.

“I will not support pushing or re-upping stimulus money to keep people at home,” she said, referring to the unemployment benefits.

An extension of the pandemic unemployment benefits, which include an extra $300 in weekly payments, was included in the American Rescue Plan. But unless Congress takes action, those benefits will expire Sept. 6.

Herrell said the continued payments are a burden on businesses that have already been battered by the shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Conservatives and employers have argued that with a vaccine now available and the economy improving, continuing the unemployment payments will hamper the recovery.

Herrell also said Thursday that she blamed the payments for a high number of jobs throughout the economy that have remained unfilled.

“We have just incentivized people to stay at home and not take these jobs,” she said.

Herrell added that the worker shortage is having an effect on industries throughout the economy, including the agricultural sector.

Some economists have cast doubt on the idea that unemployment benefits deter individuals from seeking work. In fact, a June 2020 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that people receiving unemployment benefits search more intensely than those who are out of work but have exhausted their benefits.

During the telephone town hall, Herrell did not explicitly say whether she backs eliminating other pandemic relief measures, such as a moratorium on evictions. Repeated emails and calls to Herrell’s office asking that question did not receive a response before press time Tuesday.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.