Lawmakers split over how to handle the labor shortage in New Jersey

New Jersey – like many other states – is dealing with a labor shortage. How to deal with this shortage is now up for debate.

News 12 Staff

Jun 15, 2021, 2:21 AM

Updated 1,034 days ago


New Jersey – like many other states – is dealing with a labor shortage. How to deal with this shortage is now up for debate.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer is putting increased pressure on Gov. Phil Murphy to offer back-to-work bonuses. But there are others who insist that the government is already to blame for the shortage and that bonuses would wreck the state’s economy.
The Risotto House in Rutherford was waiting for the COVID-19 restrictions to end. But now there is a new problem – not enough workers.
“We need people in the kitchen. We need servers, bussers, but nobody’s looking for a job,” says manager Esther Troyer.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation at almost 8%.
Gottheimer is urging the governor to offer $500 back-to-work bonuses and to use federal stimulus money to pay for it. Other states are doing something similar.
“This is one way we can help get people back into places like this,” Gottheimer says.
But others insist that the bonuses won’t help.
"The government is already damaging the job market. We know how they're doing it, by incentivizing, paying people to stay out of work,” says Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.
O’Scanlon is referring to the $300 per week that the federal government adds to unemployment payments on top of state unemployment.
A couple dozen Republican-led states announced that they will cut off extra pandemic federal benefits before their expected expiration on Labor Day. O’Scanlon says New Jersey should move to do the same to salvage the summer.
"What the congressman should do is have a heart-to-heart talk with his fellow Democrat governor and say, ‘Governor, stop this nonsense,’” O’Scanlon says.
The senator says that this would be for the good of the economy. People have been largely patients with the worker issues, but some are wondering how long this good will will last.
“The next time and the third time, they’ll be like, ‘This is ridiculous, find employees,” Troyer says.
Murphy says that he likes Gottheimer’s idea, but that he is not ready to do it. The governor admits that the $300 checks are part of the employment problem, but says that there are other factors as well, including child care and hybrid learning.

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