Indiana to drop out of fed benefit program

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Monday that Indiana will end its participation in all federal unemployment insurance programs on June 19, meaning Hoosiers will no longer be able to collect an extra $300 benefits payment.

The move also will end payments for people who did not qualify for unemployment benefits before the COVID-19 pandemic, including gig-economy workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers.

And it eliminates a benefit extension that allowed out-of-work Hoosiers to receive benefits beyond the traditional 26-week state program.

“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now,” Holcomb, a Republican, said in a statement. “I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow. We have a myriad of work options in every region of our state with many more coming online every week.”

Indiana joins at least 18 other states that have announced they’re dropping out of the federal programs, which Congress had reauthorized through the summer.

Holcomb’s decision comes about a week after he said he would reinstate a requirement that those receiving unemployment certify they are looking for work.

The state’s unemployment rate was 3.9% last month, one year after it jumped to more than 17% after Holcomb ordered many businesses to shut their doors and Hoosiers to largely stay home.

The governor’s office also said more Hoosiers are in the workforce now than a year ago, and the labor force participation rate is nearing the pre-pandemic level.

Indiana had about 60,000 people receiving traditional unemployment benefits in mid-April — down some 195,000 — from a year ago, according to federal statistics. About 225,000 people received payments from other federal jobless programs started to assist those who lost income during the pandemic.

“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” Holcomb said in the written statement. “I’ve spoken to leaders in the recreational vehicle industry who tell me they could hire thousands of people today, and in the last couple weeks, we’ve seen companies like Amazon, Apple, Toyota and Milwaukee Tool announce thousands of new career opportunities for Hoosiers.”

The maximum Indiana unemployment benefit is $390 per week, although most workers receive less.

With the state and federal benefits combined, an unemployed Hoosier could receive as much as $690 per week. That’s the equivalent of $17.25 an hour based on a 40-hour work week.

Many companies — especially those in the hospitality industry — have said many people would prefer to receive federal benefits than come to work for lower wages.