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When It Pays More to Not Work
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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the January 27, 2021 issue of The Journal
   When visiting my sister in Texas a while back, I was watching their local news and a man told a reporter that he wasn't looking for a job, even though he felt he could get one rather easily, because he was making more money unemployed than before he got laid off.
   I scratched my head and made a mental note to look into it and see if the same thing was happening in Georgia. However, the older I get the less my mental notes ever see the light of another day.
   I was reminded of it, however, earlier this week when I got a story from Capitol Beat News Service, of which The Journal is a member. The answer is, "Yes, it is happening in Georgia."
   You may remember a while back that the US Congress was debating whether or not to fund special unemployment benefits due to the pandemic. It was not a debate about whether or not states would continue to provide unemployment payments to qualified people, but rather a debate about whether or not the federal government should add extra money to unemployment checks.
   The result was that those who were unemployed not only received the "regular" amount of unemployment benefits, but a good bit more.
   I'm sure it sounded good at the time. I mean, what politician was going to vote against helping folks out who have been knocked out of work, especially when some of them lost their jobs due to the government putting restrictions on the operation of businesses during the pandemic?
   However, as with many well-intentioned policies, there was an unintended consequence. In Georgia, people receiving the maximum state and federal benefits suddenly found themselves "making" $50,180 per year sitting on the couch. Minimum benefits equaled $34,060.
   According to the US Census Bureau, the average salary in Georgia is $37,215.
   Human nature being what it is, only those who were really driven, and those accustomed to making more money, continued to look for work. The government had removed the incentive for low to mid-range wage earners to find a job.
   Meanwhile, according to a recent report from CBS, Georgia has gained back 82% of the jobs it lost due to the pandemic. The Georgia Labor Department has 170,000 job openings listed at
   This is not a rant about unemployment benefits. As a society, we should provide a safety net for those who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. If you're in that category, God bless you, and I'm happy for my tax dollars to help keep a roof over your head and food on your table until to get your feet back under you. Anyone, including myself, could find him or herself in the same situation.
   However, it's supposed to be a safety net to catch those who need to be caught. It's supposed to be a "hand up", not a "hand out."
    As a Christian nation, we certainly should help those in need.
   "Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses." (Proverbs 28:27)
   However, we should also remember that the Bible also speaks of the sanctity of work.
   "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1st Timothy 5:8)