Montana to end extra unemployment pay due to worker shortage

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday the state will end its participation next month in the federal unemployment program, as the state struggles with a worker shortage.

Beginning June 27, unemployed workers in the state will no longer receive $300 in extra weekly benefits, forgoing payments that were approved through Sept. 6.

Instead, the state will launch a new program to provide bonuses to unemployed workers who return to work.

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"Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage," Gianforte said in a statement, adding that the federal unemployment benefits are "doing more harm than good."

Under the new incentive program, workers currently receiving unemployment benefits can qualify for a one-time $1,200 bonus after they have completed four weeks in a new job. The governor approved $15 million in funding for the incentives from federal coronavirus relief dollars allocated to the state.

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There are around 25,000 people currently claiming unemployment insurance in the state, according to the Montana Department of Labor. The department also estimates there are around 14,000 job openings in the state.