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OP-ED: From the editor: Best of Nominations are nearing the end

Dawn Burleigh,
General Manager/Editor

As The Orange Leader offers an online only ballot this year for the Best of Orange County, it is also being offered in stages. Currently, the Nomination phase is underway. It ends at 3 p.m. on Monday, May 31, 2021. There is still time to name who you think is the best of the best.

When nominations end, we will tally the nominations and the categories with the three highest nominations will move to the Voting Round.

Then readers will again have an opportunity to select between the three finalists in each category for the one they think is the best! The voting round will begin in July. Will you be among the finalists?

 

Pandemic-related unemployment benefits ending

Governor Greg Abbott informed the U.S. Department of Labor that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective June 26, 2021. This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

This comes at a time when help wanted signs are seen everywhere. While the extended benefit relief was needed for a time, it is also time for it to end.

Employers are having a difficult time staying open as it is and the lack of applicants only adds to the issue.

According to a press release, the current job openings are good paying jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour.  Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.

Another reason why today’s action is needed is the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed. Fraudulent unemployment claims rob taxpayer money and do nothing to help the unemployed. TWC estimates that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totals more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.

It is not surprising there were fraudulent claims, however, the total reaching as much as $10.4 billion is disturbing.

Those are tax dollars which could have been used to improve the quality of life for all Texans, not just a few. If you can call 800,000 a few. Texas population in 2021 is estimated to be 29.2 million and its second populous state in US after California.

With businesses opening their doors again, they need workers to be there. We need workers to be there to help complete the transaction.

It is time to return to business as our new usual.

 

Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com