Gov. Chis Sununu's plan to boost New Hampshire's economy doesn't involve federal unemployment benefits.
Sununu said Tuesday the state will end its participation in all pandemic-related federal unemployment compensation programs next month but will offer “summer stipends” totaling $10 million to encourage people to find jobs.
Starting Tuesday, unemployed workers who find full-time jobs will get $1,000 bonuses after completing eight weeks of work, and part-time workers will get $500 until the $10 million fund is depleted. The stipends will be available for those earning $25 or less per hour.
“We are just in a very different spot now,” Sununu said in an interview Wednesday.
In the Granite State, unemployment is now below 3%, there are more jobs available than ever before and only about 15,000 more people are unemployed now than before the pandemic. Plus, with vaccines readily available, Sununu said it’s time for everyone get back to work.
The announcement was met with mixed emotions in New Hampshire.
“I think it’s a good idea, so people will get back to work,” said Lucy Robson, who was visiting downtown Portsmouth from out of town.
“I don’t agree with the theory that they’re sitting around doing nothing if they’re unemployed, that’s why I think the $300 a week is better,” Portsmouth resident Dean Wolfe said.
About 35,000 people are currently collecting unemployment benefits, all of whom are getting $300 per week supplemental payments either from the state or a federal program created during the pandemic. Those extra payments will end June 19 now that the unemployment rate has dropped and given the abundance of available jobs, Sununu said.
The state was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck.
Governors in more than a dozen states, most of them Republicans like Sununu, have recently announced they will stop providing the $300 weekly benefit that’s been paid for the federal government. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, did not, but he did announce a similar back-to-work bonus on Monday.
Democratic political analyst Arnie Arnesen and others in his party are criticizing Sununu's strategy. “Is it a solution? No. Does it work for his politics? Yes.”
He wondered why the state shouldn't incentivize people by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Because a one-off of $1,000 doesn’t help you in three months when you have to pay the water bill, the rent bill, the food bill. Because they’re earning significantly less than $15 an hour,” Arnesen said.
Sununu said the critics can talk all they want, but the state’s thriving economy is proof his policies are working.
“That is the political talking point of the left, but when you let the economy do what it does best, this is the result. New Hampshire’s economy is the result when the government gets out of the way,” Sununu said.