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Bend Chamber, other biz groups urge state to fund ‘modest’ return-to-work bonuses, to ease hiring crunch

(Update: Comments from Bend Chamber/CEO)

'Other states have created return-to-work incentives and we believe Oregon should do the same'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Bend Chamber has joined a consortium of business advocates in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown’s office, recommending the use of some federal COVID-19 relief funds for "modest" return-to-work bonuses, to get more Oregonians to leave jobless benefits behind and return to the workforce.

The signing organizations note serious issues with hiring an adequate workforce and said using American Rescue Plan funds for such an incentive to go back to work are "an important priority" and has been done by other states.

Katy Brooks, the Bend Chamber's CEO and president, told NewsChannel 21 on Friday that she's "not aware of a response yet" to last week's letter to the governor.

She said the business advocacy group Oregon Business & Industry "is taking point on this to make a statewide effort. Other states are using this tactic.

"Take a look at Montana, for example," Brooks wrote. "Businesses (especially in the service industry) are having to cut back, shut down or reduce services because they can’t find labor. With the UI bonus ending Sept. 1, nearly our entire summer tourism season will be over and many of the businesses that are barely hanging on will take another hit to their livelihood."

Here’s the full letter:

Letter to Governor Kate Brown’s Office

June 2, 2021
Return-to-Work Bonuses
An Important Priority for American Rescue Plan Funding
Action is needed now to address worker shortages

"Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, many Oregon businesses have faced the very difficult reality of curtailed operations due to government-ordered shut downs, stay home orders and COVID-driven declines in their markets. They have supported efforts designed to keep Oregonians safe, but the cost has been great, as jobs were lost and businesses closed.

Over the last 15 months, the federal and state governments have appropriately invested in extra benefits for workers to help them weather this storm. Oregon has created several funds designed to help workers forced to stay home due to job elimination, school closures, loss of child care, illness and a variety of other reasons.

Now we are asking you to invest in helping us bring those employees back to work.

Workplaces are safe. Vaccines are available to virtually any Oregonian who wants one. Businesses have changed how they operate, implementing complex safety measures designed to protect workers, customers and the public. We are ready to get back to work, but we are having a very hard time convincing employees to join us.

Virtually every industry in the state is experiencing a workforce challenge. Quality jobs are going unfilled: if this continues, it could hinder economic recovery for Oregon. We know that qualified workers are not yet returning to their jobs for several reasons. A recent survey by the National Governor’s Association found three significant factors 1) rich unemployment benefits and other government payments; 2) childcare challenges; and 3) safety concerns related to health.

We appreciate the steps the state has taken to address these issues. The campaign to encourage COVID vaccinations is undoubtedly the best way to address safety concerns. Safely reopening schools and expanding childcare options will ease the challenges facing parents, and we all recognize this must be a continuing area of focus.

But we have to deal with the financial incentives as well. We are asking you to create an incentive plan to encourage unemployed Oregonians to accept work when it is offered. Other states have created return-to-work incentives and we believe Oregon should do the same.

Please consider using American Rescue Plan funds to create an incentive program aimed at encouraging people to accept work rather than relying on continued unemployment benefits.

A modest return-to-work bonus may tip the balance for an out-of-work Oregonian deciding whether to stay home or move back to a job.

This can’t wait. Business has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, and we all want them back on their feet again. They need workers to operate successfully. Jobs are open, you can help get them filled.

Please take action to provide workers with an incentive to go back to work so our state’s economy can get back to normal. It is time."

Signers ranged from the Oregon Business Council and Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association to the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems and other chambers of commerce around Oregon.

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  1. Absolutely predictable. Condition people to rely on the Govt and they become even more lazy. Socialism is a great product as long as all us dumb asses continue to work to pay for those that won’t.

  2. So does this mean y’all are earning a liveable wage? Able to afford to buy food/ groceries and pay for childcare? Health insurance? Fuel? Oh and don’t forget exorbitant rent.

  3. SICKENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cut off the freaking GRAVY TRAIN and let everyone apply for the thousands of jobs that are available to fill here in Oregon or just go and move in with STRETCH Pelosi and kin.

  4. This has gotten ridiculous! I have to ring up and bag my own groceries, buss my own tables, The line at the coffee stand is way too long and don’t get me started on Wendy’s closing the dining room! What’s next pumping my own gas? stop paying our slaves to stay home, they should be waiting on me hand and foot for any pittance they are lucky enough to get from us!!!

  5. This is a joke right? Anyone not working now should be ashamed of themselves. Nearly every business in town is hiring and paying quite well.

  6. Why dont these business offer the bonuses themselves?
    Fake conservatives around here always howl about making government run like a household or business but they want to run their business with handouts, from the government.
    Classic congnative dissonance.

      1. From the “rainy day funds” that all those business have. I mean they’re certainly not running like governmemt by taking loans and issuing bonds like the government, riiiiiiiight?

  7. From the Wall Street Journal:

    “Forget Going Back to the Office—People Are Just Quitting Instead. As the pandemic clouds lift, the percentage of Americans leaving employers for new opportunities is at its highest level in more than two decades.”


    “While a high quit rate stings employers with greater turnover costs, and in some cases, business disruptions, labor economists say churn typically signals a healthy labor market as individuals gravitate to jobs more suited to their skills, interests and personal lives.”

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