Unemployed Texans are wondering if extra $300 in benefits will end early

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- As pressure mounts for the Texas governor to end the extra $300 weekly unemployment benefit, those who receive the money are worried about losing a lifeline.

Susan Winner lost her job during the pandemic. Winner said she only receives $81 from the state in unemployment benefits every two weeks which is why the extra $300 has been crucial for her.

"We still wait in food lines for that extra help," Winner said. "Without that extra $300, I don't know where we'd be."

Right now, officials said the program for unemployed Texans will end in September.

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President Joe Biden is defending his $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan as the U.S. reported a slowdown in job growth.

But, there's a growing call to end distribution of the additional money sooner than later.

This week, more than 40 organizations asked Gov. Greg Abbott to end it early.

ABC13 contacted the governor's office but haven't heard back.

University of Houston Professor Dietrich Vollrath said ending the benefit early would be a mistake.

"It's incredibly unsurprising a bunch of business owners would like there to not be competition for labor, and they would like to hire people back at relatively low wages," Vollrath explained. "Their other option is to raise wages."

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Some owners say that hasn't helped. Landry's Hospitality Company said its now offering a $250 signing bonus for new hires.

Tony's Tex-Mex restaurant even increased starting pay, but said they can't find workers.

"[We are] trying to match at least what some people are making in unemployment with the $300, but not even with that, we don't get employees," Tony's Tex-Mex human resources generalist Cintya Alamis said.

The situation is so dire, Tony's is hosting a job fair in its Katy location parking lot next Thursday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. with more than 20 other restaurant owners.
"You could even get hired on the spot," Tony's support coordinator Alejandra Vega said. "That's what the goal is."

Economists aren't sure boosted benefits are the issue. They said the pandemic and childcare are a bigger problem.

Vollrath doesn't believe ending the boosted benefit early will fix the labor shortage.

"It's not going to have this, 'Woah, look at that. We're back at four percent, and back at full employment,'" Vollrath explained. "That's not going to happen on a large scale."

Vollrath believes in a few months, the pandemic will improve, and people will return to work. He said if the situation improves rapidly by this summer, politicians could then reassess the boosted benefits. But for now, he suggests keeping them until September.

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