BISMARCK, ND (STL.News) North Dakota will terminate its participation in the federal government’s pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs, effective June 19, to help address the ongoing workforce shortage across the state, Gov. Doug Burgum announced today.
North Dakota elected to participate in four unemployment-related programs in connection with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020.
The agreement that was signed to initiate these programs allows North Dakota or the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to terminate the programs upon 30 days’ written notice to the other party. North Dakota’s written notice was provided to the USDOL today.
“After fighting through severe stress and financial hardship, many North Dakota businesses that survived the pandemic are now facing an unprecedented labor shortage as they attempt to recover,” Burgum said. “These federal unemployment programs were meant to supplement state benefits and provide short-term relief for displaced and vulnerable workers, and these programs have accomplished their goals but are now counterproductive. Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire.”
North Dakota had 16,396 online job openings in April, which was nearly 50 percent higher than the same period in 2020 and represents the state’s largest number of online job openings since July 2015, according to Job Service North Dakota.
At the same time, more than 8,300 individuals are claiming unemployment benefits under the four programs North Dakota is terminating on June 19. To date, those four programs have paid out more than $700 million in unemployment benefits, though 29% of federal program claimants live out of state.
“Federal funds provided a safety net to our unemployed workers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that open jobs are surpassing pre-pandemic levels, we believe that re-employment is the best recovery plan for North Dakota‘s economic health,” said Bryan Klipfel, executive director of Job Service North Dakota.
“The termination of federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs is a straightforward solution to a growing workforce problem,” said Arik Spencer, CEO and President of the Greater North Dakota Chamber. “Anytime the federal government competes with private employers to keep people at home is problematic. The federal unemployment relief provided short-term financial assistance and has served its purpose. Let’s get the workforce back in a position to help our state and economy recover.”
“NFIB members have long stated that finding adequate workforce is one of their top issues, but as we recover from the pandemic recession this problem has become even more acute,” said Alison Ritter, North Dakota state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “The workers small businesses need are being rewarded for staying home. A record 44% of all small business owners report having job openings they could not fill, 22 points higher than the 48-year historical average. We applaud the Governor’s Office for taking steps that will help small business owners find the workers they need to continue running their businesses.”
“The State of North Dakota has been quick to provide its citizens access to COVID vaccinations and to reopen its economy with innovative programs to support businesses,” said David Farnsworth, chair of the North Dakota Workforce Development Council. “Yet today there are ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere as employers desperately try to fill their workforce needs and bring the economy back to pre-pandemic levels with full employment. Incentivizing the return to work by discontinuing expanded unemployment benefits will help meet employer demands and advance the state’s workforce strategy.”
“The North Dakota Hospitality Association commends Governor Burgum on his decision to opt out of the continuing federal supplemental unemployment aid, addressing the labor shortage for our state’s hospitality industry,” said Rudie Martinson, executive director of the North Dakota Hospitality Association. “We are on the frontlines of the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, and never has there been a greater need for employees. The positive news is that we are open for business, and good jobs are available at food, lodging and beverage establishments across our state.”
To learn more about local job openings, contact the nine workforce centers through the state at www.jobsnd.com.
The following describes the changes that will take place when North Dakota’s participation in the four programs is terminated effective June 19:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
What It Is: benefits to the self-employed, the underemployed, independent contractors, and individuals who have been unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19. This includes individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or instructed to quarantine.
How It Will Change: Beginning no sooner than 30 days from the date North Dakota provides written notice to USDOL, North Dakota will stop paying PUA benefits to existing claimants and not process any new PUA claims filed after the expiration of the notice period.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
What It Is: Extension of unemployment benefits for claimants beyond the traditional 20 weeks by an additional 51 weeks. PEUC allowed claimants to extend their time on unemployment where they normally would have expired.
How It Will Change: Beginning no sooner than 30 days from the date North Dakota provides written notice to USDOL, North Dakota claimants who have exhausted their regular UI benefits will no longer be eligible for payments.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
What It Is: $300 weekly add-on benefit for all types of unemployment assistance.
How It Will Change: Beginning no sooner than 30 days from the date North Dakota provides written notice to USDOL, North Dakota will stop issuing the $300 weekly FPUC benefit payments for weeks after the expiration of the notice period.
Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
What It Is: $100 weekly add-on benefit for those who are eligible for regular UI benefits, but also earned self-employment income.
How It Will Change: Beginning no sooner than 30 days from the date North Dakota provides written notice to USDOL, North Dakota will stop paying MEUC benefits to existing claimants and stop processing any MEUC claims received after the notice period.
Job Service North Dakota is currently drafting a publicity campaign called “JobUP ND” to focus on the wide variety of industries in need of workers. The campaign, slated to launch June 15, will also highlight the qualifications and training needed to get into those available jobs. An increased spotlight on the workforce’s current needs plus the ability for workers to easily transfer skills will benefit employers and job seekers alike.