WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Monday urged U.S. companies to help workers gain access to vaccines and to raise their pay while touting an infusion of $350 billion in federal aid to state and local governments, saying that will help more parents obtain child care and return to work.
Biden’s remarks were designed to address ways employers can hire more workers and to help more people take jobs.
The Labor Department reported on Friday the economy added 266,000 jobs in April, short of the million jobs that most forecasters had expected. Republicans have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits for the numbers, saying the benefits discourage people from returning to work.
“My expectation is that, as our economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments,” Biden told reporters at the White House. By doing so, he said, the companies will “find plenty of workers, and we’re all going to come out of this together better than before.”
Biden also defended himself against critics who have said expanded unemployment benefits offered in the COVID-19 relief bill passed in March are keeping Americans from taking new jobs.
He said the administration will remind U.S. states this week that any unemployed American offered a comparable job must take it or risk losing unemployment benefits.
Biden, a Democrat, said he will direct the U.S. Labor Department to work with states to reinstate requirements that those receiving unemployment benefits must demonstrate they are actively looking for work.
He said school closures, child care constraints and fears of contracting the coronavirus had hindered job creation last month.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose, Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice in WashingtonEditing by Andrea Ricci and Matthew Lewis)