September 12, 2021 by Rep. Elise Stefanik

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for workers and small businesses across our country, separating millions of Americans from the dignity, purpose, and security found in a good day’s work.

Fortunately, as businesses reopen their doors and restrictions are lifted, many of the impacted workers in the North Country have returned to their jobs. Yet some workers displaced during the pandemic still remain on the sidelines as our economy recovers – and Democrat policies have simply made matters worse.

Every time I visit a small business in the North Country, one of the first things they tell me is how they are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill open jobs. Part of the problem has been the $300 a week federal unemployment insurance bonus, which was paying people to stay home. Just ask any local employer, who will tell you how they were often competing with government unemployment payments when trying to hire new workers.

I have been adamant that the unemployment bonus should have ended months ago when jobs openings surged to record levels and outpaced the number of unemployed workers, yet New York State decided to keep the gravy train running – at the taxpayers’ expense –  as long as they could. Finally, the inflated unemployment benefits expired last week, ending the misguided approach that kept workers out of meaningful job opportunities.

In order to fully restore the economic potential of our communities, I have put forward real solutions to get the North Country back to work.

First, instead of paying people more not to work, we must invest in workforce training to provide those out of work a pathway back to a meaningful career. Earlier this year, I introduced the American Workforce Recovery Act, bipartisan legislation to help displaced workers obtain the skills necessary for sustained employment and expand on-the-job training opportunities with businesses looking to hire.

While Democrats in Congress passed trillions of dollars in reckless spending in the name of COVID recovery, they failed to include any funding for workforce training and getting people back to work. They even blocked my amendment to redirect less than one percent of the spending in their bloated bill towards job training – leaving our local workforce boards without the resources to meet the surge in demand for retraining opportunities.

Second, getting more North Country parents the opportunity to enter the workforce will require better access to affordable child care. For many parts of the North Country that currently lack child care options, this means helping start-up new care providers and supporting existing providers as they grow their businesses. That’s why I introduced the Family Child Care Networks Act to allow states to repurpose unobligated relief funds and establish networks focused on increasing home-based child care options in rural and underserved communities.

Additionally, I cosponsored the Working Families Child Care Access Act, which improves dependent care flexible spending accounts by increasing contribution limits and allowing working parents to roll-over unused child care funds year to year without penalty. Together, these policies will increase the supply and affordability of child care and give working parents trusted options to care for their children as they return to the workforce.

And third, we must defend the freedom for workers to engage in the modern economy with independence and autonomy. Congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration have proposed bringing California’s widely unpopular, job-killing worker classification law nationwide, which would be disastrous for the recovery of our small businesses and for the millions of Americans who relish the opportunity to freely participate in the economy as independent contractors.

This effort to largely eliminate contract-based work fundamentally misunderstands those who choose to work independently. Survey data shows that the vast majority of independent workers prefer their status as independent contractors and three-fourths say they earn as much or more than when working for a traditional employer. But monetary benefit is hardly the only reason Americans choose independent work.

Seventy-four percent of women say they love working independently for the flexibility it provides themselves and their families.

Independent work serves as a catalyst for small business formation in the North Country and fosters the entrepreneurial spirit our nation was built upon. Earlier this year, I partnered with Senator Tim Scott to introduce the Modern Worker Empowerment Act, which updates federal law to end the patchwork of regulations and provide one clear federal standard for worker classification – delivering certainty for businesses and a level playing field for independent contractors.

The North Country cannot afford another trillion-dollar spending boondoggle coupled with job-destroying tax hikes on our small businesses as they work to get back on their feet. Instead, I’ve offered real solutions that will deliver economic opportunity for those still out of the workforce and foster job growth throughout our region.

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