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With fed bonus ending, state unemployment official urges people to expand job search

SHARE With fed bonus ending, state unemployment official urges people to expand job search
The Utah Department of Workforce Services’ main administration building in Salt Lake City now bears the name of the late Gov. Olene S. Walker. The building was renamed during a ceremony celebrating the department’s 20th anniversary on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services’ main administration building in Salt Lake City.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With a $600 federal boost for the unemployed ending with this week’s benefits, a state Workforce Services official is advising people who have been looking for a job in their preferred career to expand their search or face living on much less money.

“We emphasize the importance of looking for employment because there certainly are job opportunities, perhaps in a different industry than what individuals are used to working for,” Unemployment Insurance Division Director Kevin Burt said Thursday after the weekly jobless report was released.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported that 7,067 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, a similar number compared to the previous week. The volume of weekly claims was nearly 300% higher than the numbers last year, the agency reported, but fairly steady compared to the previous week..

The state paid more than $78 million in benefits for the week of July 12 to July 18, when more than 88,000 Utahns reported they could not find work.

“The added support of the $600 federal stimulus expires across all programs on July 25,” Burt said, noting that “this program provided temporary relief for many until economic recovery began to resume.”

He said the state agency has been doing all it can to help those seeking work to find it, including by hosting two virtual job fairs and scheduling another for July 30.

“The last job fair had nearly 70 employers that were hiring across many industries with over 11,000 job opportunities,” Burt said. People can visit jobs.utah.gov for information on the free online event next week.

He said there are currently more than 25,000 positions listed that employers are looking to fill.

“If you are an employee that is hoping to return to an industry that does not appear to be able to recover quickly in this current pandemic, the option is to look for other industries — even if it’s temporary — until they’re able to return to economic stability in the industries that have struggled to recover from this pandemic,” he said.

For those Utahns who remain unemployed or face health risks that impede them from venturing into a potentially crowded workplace, other benefits are available. 

“There are applications for both for medical assistance, for food assistance, for heat and weatherization (and) for rental assistance,” Burt said. “Unemployment insurance provided that stability in a single program, (but) what will have to happen now is that individuals that remain unemployed or continue to be at risk with the coronavirus will have to continue to receive the unemployment benefit at that reduced rate. But now we’ll have to start looking for some support and stability in the other programs.”

Meanwhile in Congress, lawmakers have yet to agree on another economic package to battle the pandemic’s impact.

The Associated Press reported officials are negotiating another aid package that could extend the extra unemployment support, though likely at less than $600. With the extra $600, roughly two-thirds of the unemployed are receiving more in aid than they earned at their former jobs, research has shown — a finding that’s led Republicans to argue that it is discouraging people from returning to work.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion package that would replace the $600 with an amount that would bring a laid-off worker’s jobless benefits to 70% of their previous income. Both parties have agreed on another $1,200 stimulus check.

Democrats in the House approved a $3.5 trillion package last month that would extend the $600 through January. Given the limited time available, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed Thursday that a bill dealing with jobless benefits aid to schools be considered next week. Democrats say the Republican plans are not enough.