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Davis, LaHood Eager To See COVID Jobless Benefits Expire

Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood
Eric Stock
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, left, and Darin LaHood spoke at a McLean County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday at the Bloomington Country Club.

Expanded jobless benefits in the U.S. are set to expire next week. The two U.S. House members who represent Bloomington-Normal told McLean County business leaders they believe allowing those benefits to expire will put more Americans back to work.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, calls the expanded jobless benefits an economic "sugar high" that has disincentivized going to work.

“Now we’ve got to try to get back to that pre-COVID economy we had and I think ending the benefits, getting these 10.2 million unfilled jobs filled will be a positive thing for the economy,” LaHood said to reporters following a McLean County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

A study of Labor Department data by the Wall Street Journal shows the 25 states that ended the additional COVID-related jobless help did not see any better job growth than the rest of the country.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said if people don't want to go back to their old job, there should be training available to help them find new work.

“We’ve got to do a better job of convincing those individuals that being in the workforce is better than not,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put together programs to partner with our state and local officials to incentivize them to get out and fill the jobs that are in need here in our communities.”

“I think we need to look at COVID as more of a risk-management versus a zero-tolerance issue."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis

Davis also encouraged employers to use a provision he helped pass as part of the federal CARES Act. It enables companies to pay a portion of the workers' student debt, up to $5,250 tax-free.

Davis also said the U.S. faces an inflation crisis that's making much of what we buy more expensive. Republicans have generally blamed the inflation on what they describe as out-of-control spending. A chief economist for Moody's Analytics has said the rise in inflation will be temporary as the economy reopens and many prices return to pre-pandemic rates.

COVID pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic still figures very much into the economy. Davis said it's holding back the economy and education too much. Davis said he wants local schools to make decision on COVID strategies and not the governor, but he suggests some schools have gone too far.

Davis' office cites one Decatur school that went all virtual for over a week based on some students being close contacts of coronavirus cases and no positives and a high school in Virden that shifted online after it had nine positive coronavirus cases and nearly one-third of its students had to quarantine.

“I think we need to look at COVID as more of a risk-management versus a zero-tolerance issue,” Davis said. “This virus was unleashed by either a lab in China or other areas that are being investigated right now, but it’s out into the world and we have to learn to live with it,” Davis said.

The U.S. hasn't determined whether the coronavirus spread to human from an infected animal or if it escaped from a lab in China.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicated 81 schools have had coronavirus outbreaks since the start of the school year, including Ridgeview Elementary School in northeastern McLean County. Davis and LaHood pushed back against any vaccine mandate. Gov. JB Pritzker required teachers and healthcare workers to get the vaccine. The governor has said the COVID vaccine is the best way to end the pandemic, but he said many people have been misled not to take it.

Budget bill

LaHood serves on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which he said is set to hold hearings next week on the proposed $3.5 trillion budget bill.

LaHood says he doesn't believe Democrats will be able to push through the plan. It deals with what Democrats have called human infrastructure, such as childcare, Medicare and green energy. LaHood said he doesn't believe the Senate's moderate Democrats will sign off on the plan.

“I have a hard time believing the $3.5 (trillion dollar plan) is going to pass the Senate with Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (Ariz.), but we’ll see,” LaHood said.

LaHood and Republicans have opposed the measure because it would use tax increases on businesses and the wealthy to pay for it.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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