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Wyoming to halt federal unemployment benefits for all residents amid workforce shortage

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Brianna Kraemer | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced Tuesday that the state will stop distributing federal supplemental unemployment benefits beginning in June in response to workforce shortages affecting businesses.

Several federal programs were created to financially assist people struggling through the COVID-19 shutdowns including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020.

Payments from the programs will no longer be an option for Wyoming residents starting on June 19. 

“Wyoming needs workers, our businesses are raring to go,” Gordon said in a statement. “I recognize the challenges facing Wyoming employers, and I believe it’s critical for us to do what we can to encourage more hiring. Federal unemployment programs have provided short-term relief for displaced and vulnerable workers at a tough time, but are now hindering the pace of our recovery.”

“People want to work, and work is available,” the governor added. “Incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.”

Wyoming’s unemployment rate has hovered at or just below 5.3% since last November, which is currently 0.7% lower than the national average. 

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services will stop distributing payments for three federal unemployment programs, one of which, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), dealt an additional $300 per week to eligible unemployed status individuals. 

The other benefits that will end include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

The hospitality industry has struggled through the pandemic restrictions, and now that restaurants are open at 100% capacity in the state, employers are struggling to find staff, Chris Brown, executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition, recently told The Center Square. 

“It’s been incredibly difficult for businesses to get back to staffing levels,” he said. The hospitality industry under normal circumstances is a labor-intensive industry. It takes a lot of staff to run a successful fully staffed restaurant or hotel.”

State assistance will still be available when Wyoming ends its participation in the federal programs.