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(The Center Square) – New Mexico has reinstated the requirement that those receiving unemployment benefits must be actively seeking work.

The Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) is putting the work search policy back into effect after a hiatus during the pandemic, when state government restrictions put into place to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to among the highest unemployment rates in the country

All residents receiving unemployment must now log two attempts to find work per week for as long as their benefits continue.

Carla Sonntag, president of the New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC), said this should help people get back to work.

“Employers, in general, are having a hard time hiring,” Sonntag told The Center Square. “There’s going to be a lag time between the requirement going into effect and we start seeing the benefit, but we are happy to see that it’s in and we do believe it will be beneficial.”

She said bringing back the requirement could’ve come sooner though.

“Twenty-five states removed that waiver in April,” Sonntag said. “New Mexico didn’t get it done until May 9.”

DWS did not make an announcement concerning the reinstatement of the policy, Sonntag noted. Many businesses weren’t aware of the policy change until the NMBC found the information on DWS’s website. Those expected to look for work will receive a notification when they recertify for any unemployment payments.

There was concern among businesses that there would be no mechanism to ensure unemployed job seekers were actually pounding the pavement because that has been a problem in the past, Sonntag said.

“We asked the acting director of Workforce Solutions if they have a way of verifying that employees are actually looking for work rather than just filling out a form saying that they are, and that they’re showing up for scheduled interviews and accepting work if offered,” Sonntag said.

The acting director of DWS stated the department does have a procedure in place that compliance staff will be following to ensure those on unemployment are following through. Employers will also have recourse if they can’t get anyone to accept a job.

“The employers have a form that they can fill out if they have someone they have offered work and the work has been refused because that puts the employee then at risk of losing their unemployment benefit,” Sonntag said.

Labor rights activists assert much of the worker shortage stems from concerns about workplace safety and sufficient wages, the Santa Fe Reporter stated.

Sonntag said she doesn’t think such concerns are founded in the facts.

“Employers are very conscientious about what they’re doing in the workplace to take care of employees, and wages are being driven up by demand,” Sonntag said.

Sonntag points out there are companies offering sign-on bonuses and other incentives to entice employees to work.