Gov. Spencer Cox defended the push by Republicans to end enhanced unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the pandemic saying those extra payments have become a “disincentive” for unemployed workers to rejoin the workforce.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cox said even with Utah’s low unemployment numbers, employers are having difficulty finding workers to fill open positions.
“That’s what happens when we pay people not to work,” said Cox. “There are people struggling. We want to help them out. But, at some point, we have to roll that back.”
Several Republican-led states are planning to stop participating in the federal program to provide an extra $300 per week for workers who lost their jobs due to the economic downturn from the pandemic. Now that those states are loosening restrictions, employers are struggling to hire enough people.
Utah’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation sitting at just 2.9%, far below the national average of 6.0%. The state was one of the few to record net job growth during the pandemic.
Asked about the push by House Republicans to strip Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position for refusing to endorse the lie that former President Donald Trump only lost the 2020 election because of election fraud, Cox tried to walk a middle path saying the GOP is “very divided.”
“That’s no secret. I’m not the first person to say that, but as we talk about broadening the tent and bringing in a new generation of Republicans, we really have to allow for those types of differences,” said Cox.
Both Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney were booed at the Utah Republican convention last week, but Romney received the largest measure of scorn from GOP delegates. Cox said it was “remarkable” to see the former Republican presidential nominee booed by his own party, but that’s not unique to Utah.
“This is playing out everywhere. I think what’s remarkable, you did hear that clip of the boos, and Sen. Romney certainly got the brunt of that, but the resolution to censure him actually failed, and that was with a small number of delegates, theoretically the most passionate and maybe extreme delegates,” said Cox.
Cox added a lot of the anger swirling around American politics right now is a result of stress brought on by the pandemic.
“I think this past year has been really tough on people. There’s no question about that. It has certainly heightened those passions and that divisiveness,” said Cox. “I think we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t try to get at the heart of what is driving people to believe things that aren’t true. What is it that’s happening out there that has led us to this point? Why is it that people are latching on to conspiracies surrounding the pandemic and what is driving us apart?”