COLUMN: Sen. Manchin is right to stand up for West Virginia small businesses

Date: November 05, 2021

The following column by NFIB State Director Gil White ran earlier this week in The State Journal and The Exponent Telegraph in Clarksburg.

In Washington, talks continue over President Biden’s Build Back Better Act. Among many in Congress calling for record new federal spending and entitlement programs, Senator Manchin is still one of the few voices of reason.

Research by the National Federation of Independent Business shows that inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages are plaguing small businesses.

As the senator has said, we must examine how new legislation coming out of Washington will contribute to these very serious problems.

Recently, out-of-state agitators are attacking Senator Manchin over his concerns about Speaker Pelosi’s proposed worker leave entitlement program, but let’s look at the facts:

As small businesses across our state will tell you, after receiving more to stay home than to work with federal COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits, there are a record number of unfilled job openings.

This is contributing to massive business disruptions throughout West Virginia and leaving many small business owners and their employees questioning why they are working so hard when so many are not.

Senator Manchin recognized this issue when he supported an amendment to the Rescue Plan Act that would have mitigated this problem.

Speaker Pelosi’s worker-leave entitlement proposal would serve to further enshrine this problem into permanent law by allowing virtually any employee to take 12 weeks off from work every year paid for by United States taxpayers. The way the bill is written, you can almost be assured this program will be a new source of abuse.

Under the bill, an employee could take 12 paid weeks off from work for medical leave or to care for someone. Nobody denies that helping folks in need is a noble and worthy goal, but, like everything coming out of Washington, you have to look closely at how the program is designed.

Under the Speaker’s plan, the individual you are caring for does not have to be your actual spouse or relative. Instead, you can take time off to care for somebody who is an “equivalent of a family relationship.” If your friend is like a brother to you, you could take federal paid time off supposedly for his care.

Of course, if you only have five or 10 employees, somebody taking extensive and inflexible leave is a huge deal. To make it worse, under the bill, you don’t have to prove you gave any notice at all, just attest to the government that you did.

Absent evidence to the contrary, the law would require the government to believe whatever you write on your application for the program.

This is exactly the kind of program that will hurt small businesses and enhance the entitlement society that Senator Manchin has expressed such serious concerns about.

He is right to oppose this inflexible program as small businesses try to recover from the pandemic. As we saw this year with expanding federal unemployment benefits, well-intentioned programs can often lead to perverse incentives that worsen workforce participation problems.

Small business owners throughout West Virginia thank Senator Manchin for continuing to stand up for our state and our values. We ask him to continue to push back against this new entitlement.

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