On CNBC, Portman Highlights Return to Work Incentive Proposal to Invigorate U.S. Economy

May 28, 2020 | Portman Difference

Today, during an interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans, Senator Portman discussed his proposal to incentivize individuals to return to the workplace, which will be critical to a robust economic recovery as we slowly and safely begin to reopen. Portman believes it is critical that we have a workforce that’s ready to step into their old jobs or newly available jobs as the economy reopens and that a return-to-work bonus for individuals reentering the workplace would better help get the American economy running again. He highlighted his proposal of providing $450 a week for individuals returning to work, meaning they’d receive their wages plus this $450 bonus. Portman believes this proposal would ensure that there are as few situations as possible where staying on unemployment is more lucrative than returning to work. He believes this provision should be a part of the next coronavirus response stimulus legislation considered in the Senate. 

According to recent research from the American Action Forum and from the University of Chicago, between 60-70 percent of individuals currently on unemployment are making more than they did in their prior job thanks to this federal supplement. Furthermore, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners are making, on average, double what they made in the workforce through this UI program. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted Senator Portman’s proposal. Portman is hopeful that as the House and Senate work together on the next legislative package, that they can focus on the economy and incentivizing people to get back to work.  National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow praised Senator Portman’s work on this issue and said the White House is considering the proposal as discussions commence about the next COVID-19 legislative package.

Excerpts from the interview can found below and a video can be found here.


“The idea is to have a bonus. Right now, as we just saw with your stock market report, the economy is starting to reopen, and that’s good. But to have a robust economic recovery that we all want, we’ve got to encourage people to go back to work.”


“Well, first, let me just be sure that people understand that under the current system, according to a recent study by the University of Chicago and American Action Forum, 60 to 70 percent of the people on unemployment today are making more than they did in their prior job. For the bottom 20 percent of wage earners, they’re making on average double what they made in the workforce. So what I’m hearing from small business folks all around the state of Ohio is, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready to start to hire some people and we would like to reopen, but we’re having a tough time getting our employees to come back and to find new employees.’ So the idea here is not to say that people shouldn’t be getting help if they lost their job, and through no fault of their own, a lot of people did. But instead to say, hey, if you’re on unemployment insurance and you want to go back to work, you can get a bonus to do that so our bonus at $450 comes out of the $600 per week and the idea is that that $450 is enough to make it, you know, fair for people who are on minimum wage, as an example. The $450 is based on the average minimum wage to make sure that you’re even, that you’re not making more or less if you go back to work. So others have said it should be $200, some have said it should be $600. But the point is to have a bonus to go back to work, which helps everybody, helps the worker, helps the small business, and helps the taxpayer, because you’re saving probably $40 billion a year just at the federal and state level, just between now and the end of July.

“I’m willing to take a look at anything that gets people back to work. You know, I think that we need to provide incentives for work. And again, what I’m hearing from small businesses here in Ohio is they’re starting to get moving again, but they’re having a tough time getting workers and the employment situation is going to be key to getting this economic recovery going. The workplace needs to be safe that’s for sure. And our program would be optional, it’s not something people would be required to take. It would be something I think a lot of people would take advantage of. But we can’t have what the Democrats are proposing, which is in the Nancy Pelosi-passed HEROES Act, a $3 trillion plus bill. It says that the additional $600 per week at the federal level, which again, means that 60 to 70 percent of people are making more than they did in their prior job, that that would continue into next year. I think that’s not in the interest of our economic growth we all want to see and getting this recovery going again. It’s not in the interest of workers because if you want to get people back to work, everyone should want that -- that’s where people generally get their health care, that's where people get their retirement, that’s where people get the meaning in their life and the dignity and self-respect that comes from work. So we should all be working toward that end.”