FRANKFORT – Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles is renewing his call for Governor Andrew Beshear to immediately end Kentucky’s participation in the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program and instead offer a “back-to-work” bonus to encourage Kentuckians to reenter the workforce.

 “As I travel the state and speak with employers, I hear about the immense labor shortage facing our businesses,” Commissioner Quarles said. “While pandemic unemployment assistance was needed temporarily to help Kentuckians put out-of-work by the Governor’s executive orders, we now have employers competing with government checks. There are plenty of jobs in Kentucky. If the Governor is serious about getting back to normal and fully reopening our economy, he should encourage people to reenter the labor force.”

 According to a report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics, Kentucky’s labor force participation (LFP) rate in March “remained well below pre-pandemic levels” and is nearly 5% lower than the national average and Kentucky’s border states. The report states the difference in labor force participation “suggests that a larger share of workers who lost jobs…are not looking for work in Kentucky compared to the rest of the nation.”

 “While we continue to encourage people to take the vaccine, like I did, we should also encourage people to get back to work,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Governor Beshear should follow the example of many other governors around the nation who have offered back-to-work bonuses. This would be a great way to get people back to work, especially in our hospitality sector which has 19 percent fewer workers employed in it as compared to January 2020.”

 Commissioner Quarles first called on Governor Beshear to end the pandemic unemployment bonus after hearing from restaurant and other small business owners during his “Restaurant Roundtable” tour.