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Kentucky Governor Facing Calls To Halt Extra Jobless Benefits

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Andy Beshear to end the extra federal benefits being offered to unemployed Kentuckians. Sen. Mitch McConnell is among those blaming the jobless benefits for frustrating employers' attempts to replenish staff.

The weekly $300 federal aid could extend all the way through September, but Republicans are pointing to the roughly half of U.S. statesthat are opting out of the extra pandemic assistance ahead of the expiration date.

And McConnell is becoming a more outspoken advocate that Kentucky do the same.

"The coronavirus is behind us. We need to get back to work. We need to do things productively, and I do disagree with the governor's decision," the senator said during a swing through the state this week.

But Beshear sees the benefits as not just individual assistance, but a key economic driver helping power the state's recovery.

"They are going into groceries. That's the number one thing being bought. They're going into retail. So an immediate termination of those extra benefits would hurt our economy," the Democrat said in a May media briefing.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policyargues most of the concerns about labor shortages are coming from food service industries offering "low wages, few benefits, and little workplace flexibility."

Meanwhile, Forbes reports data out of New York show the self-reported lowest starting wage workers are willing to accept has gone up by 21% since the fall. Multiple factors could be causing the jump, from the add-on benefits to worries about the health risks of taking a new job.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.