In perhaps the ultimate sign that the economy is fully reopening in Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb announced last week the state was ending a handful of unemployment benefits.
As of June 19, Hoosiers will no longer be eligible for that federal pandemic employment benefits plan.
That mean the $300 bonus, the extended unemployment beyond 26 weeks and pandemic assistance for the self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers who normally wouldn't qualify will go away.
This will affect an estimated 220,000 Hoosiers.
“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” Holcomb said last week.
After a year unlike any other in our lifetime, it's time to get back to work.
“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now. I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow,” Holcomb said.
We agree with the governor and forgive the corny analogy.
Hoosiers, like the rest of the country and the world, have endured a lot since March 2020.
It's understandable that some are hesitant to return to the workplace. But with easier access to the COVID-19 vaccines and plunging cases, now is as good a time as any to make the effort to move forward.
And we also know that a return to work can't be a return to business as usual.
Companies and firms must learn from the pandemic. They must value things like safety and mental health and realize that they need to provide jobs that are worth working.
If the governor's move provides a nudge to further stimulate the economy, it's especially welcome in The Region.
As The Times' Joseph Pete reported last week, unemployment is still in double digits in Gary and East Chicago, and a relatively high 6.9% across the Gary metro region.
These unemployment benefits were meant to be temporary. Some may argue that they should remain in place since they come at no cost to the state, but those without jobs have close to a month to seek employment.
There are opportunities of all kinds in the market right now.
Lake County Parks Communications Director Emily Trisler told The Times last week staff shortages are top of mind for her and other local park directors.
"Grass doesn't stop growing just because there's no one to mow it," she said.
There's work to be done. Good, honest work.
Get your shot. Get back to work. It’s time.