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Alaska ends weekly $300 federal COVID-19 unemployment benefit

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Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 10:15 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state will soon stop distributing a $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit that was brought on by the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic, joining over a dozen other states who have made similar cuts.

The benefit, which was set to end in September, is part of a federal COVID-19 unemployment compensation program. The state will stop distributing the extra money on June 12, according to a press release from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner’s office.

“As Alaska’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide range of job opportunities and workers are needed,” said Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter in the release, later adding that there are training and employment resources available to those looking for work.

Chris Wilson, the vice president of Subway of Alaska, Inc., said there would typically be 23 restaurants open across Anchorage, Eagle River and Girdwood. There are currently two closed and dozens of positions vacant. Managers are struggling to find staff.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Wilson said.

He added that Subway is offering hiring bonuses and managers are going to jobs fairs, looking for employees.

Some Alaska economists say the extra benefits could be part of the reason for a staff shortage, but it may be more complicated. It could also be explained by fewer people from out-of-state coming into Alaska for the summer.

Nolan Klouda, the executive director the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, pointed to other possible factors: a lack of child care options, a fear of contracting COVID-19 and businesses all reopening at the same time, fighting for the same pool of workers.

One downside of cutting the benefits is the impact to the state’s economy. It’s tough to estimate the exact dollar figure Alaska will miss out on, but it’s likely in the tens of millions of dollars, Klouda said.

“Generally, people are spending that money locally on the basics of life: On rent, on groceries, even on entertainment options. That money has been helping to prop up our local economy,” he added.

Those eligible for unemployment insurance and self-employed filers will continue to have access to extensions of state benefits through Sept. 6, according to the release.

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