Keller: Unemployment, prolonged benefits not good for economy

March 9, 2021
In The News

MILTON — Unemployment and prolonged benefits are not healthy for the national economy, according to U.S. Rep. Fred Keller.

Keller, R-12, provided a legislative update on Monday to members of the Central PA Chamber of Commerce in person at the chamber's headquarters in Milton; the event was streamed via Zoom. He briefly discussed a variety of topics, including unemployment during COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't fault the worker one bit," said Keller. "They're looking out for their families. It's the people making the policy that think that's a good idea not having people go back to work."

The employer reports to the state that work was offered to an employer, which makes the employer appear to be the bad guy, said Keller.

"We shouldn't be putting them in that spot," said Keller. "It's very troubling. It's certainly not healthy for our economy."

A question from Allison Hall, owner of the UPS Store in Lewisburg, prompted the response from Keller. 

"As an employer, it's hard to find people to work," said Hall. "They're making more money on unemployment than in the workplace. I don't know if anything can be done about it, but it's been a frustration for me because I am a business that is growing. I need people."

Tea Jay Aikey, the president/CEO of the Central Pa Chamber, said finding workers has been the "one reoccurring pain point for all members we represent" even before the pandemic but especially now.

The chamber is working on "a new method and potential solutions" that will be revealed at a later date. 

Hall also asked Keller about Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 842), which would affect franchises across the country. The PRO Act protects the basic right to join a union by empowering workers to exercise their right to organize, holding employers accountable for violating workers’ rights and securing free, fair and safe union elections.

Hall said the act would turn franchise owners into middle managers and increases legal liability for franchise owners.

Keller said he is concerned about the act, which will be debated in the House this week.

Keller also briefly discussed the stimulus package, credit unions, senior funding, police reform and the Equality Act. The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service.

"If there's someone being treated poorly they need to be held accountable," said Keller. "It's unacceptable. But I think it's unnecessary legislation that's just a political talking point." 

The Senate passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill last week. The House is preparing to vote on it on Tuesday and President Biden is expected to sign it this week if the House passes it. 

Keller questioned how sending $1,400 stimulus checks to prison inmates and non-citizens help America. He also questioned the need for $140 million originally in the bill for "Speaker Pelosi's subway in California."