It's time for Washingtonians to go back to work
Last updated 5/25/2021 at 9:05pm
Masks are coming off. Most residents wanting a coronavirus vaccination have gotten one. Sports are on and students are back in the classroom.
It’s not a coronavirus emergency that’s keeping Washingtonians from going back to work.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had numerous conversations with owners and managers trying to get their small businesses back on solid financial ground. Given residents’ frustration of being pent up for more than 14 months, you’d think that would be easy.
But it’s not.
Workers are refusing to return to jobs. Want ads go unanswered and adults are refusing jobs because they get paid more to stay home.
Unfortunately, Gov. Jay Inslee continues to indulge people refusing to pay their way. He continues to accept funds offered under federal pandemic compensation programs. His eviction moratorium stands. And, his pandering to people not wanting to return to work is accelerating.
One federal funding program he accepts on behalf of the state even makes it possible for some workers to take home more money than they would make at a job. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers for a typical full-time minimum-wage worker.
At $13.69 per hour, they make $547.60 per week before taxes. But on unemployment with coronavirus enhancements, that same worker takes home approximately $574 in total state and federal unemployment — the equivalent of $18.17 per hour.
At this point, an unemployed minimum wage worker is being paid the equivalent of nearly $38,000 to stay home. And that doesn’t include free groceries from food banks and others supporting families impacted by the coronavirus. Nor does it include the lack of consequences for failing to pay rent, mortgages, or power bills.
There’s an obvious incentive to stay home for anyone that traditionally would make less than $18 per hour. That’s a problem here in Spokane County, where the per capital income hovers around $31,146 annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest data. The problem is even more pronounced in Eastern Washington’s most rural counties, where remaining on unemployment could mean making more than if they work.
That’s what Gov. Inslee and others don’t get.
Most businesses east of the Cascades pay less than $18 per hour for even management-level jobs. Even fewer can afford that much now, following the devastating, needless shutdowns mandated by Gov. Inslee over the last year.
For our businesses – and the communities they serve – to survive, unemployment programs should be curtailed or reduced and free federal money rejected.
It’ll take that and more to coax residents back to the work.
People returning to work can find ample job openings. There are “help wanted” signs posted throughout our communities. The demand is so great that many businesses are willing to pay some workers higher wages.
Failure to get people back to work is not an option if our businesses and communities are to survive and thrive.
— Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing. Email him at [email protected]