At least nine states have announced that they will be ending participation in unemployment assistance programs directed at alleviating problems produced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Among them: $300 unemployment checks, which for any state that doesn’t opt out will be extended through Sept. 6.
Tennessee is one of the latest states to opt out of the program, as many state Republicans argue the additional funds allow low-wage workers to make more money while staying at home.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee informed the United States Department of Labor Tuesday, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and South Carolina in ending state participation in federal unemployment programs.
“Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes,” Lee said in a statement. The assistance program will end in June.
Many state governors echoed the importance of small businesses in their statements.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will cut unemployment benefits because business leaders have complained that they can’t find enough job applicants. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he came to the decision after several meetings with small business owners.
“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled,” he said.
But others pointed to worker shortages and labor issues threaten to restrain the pace of economic growth. Many Republican experts blame it on these unemployment benefits.
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In Missouri, which announced Tuesday that it would end all federal unemployment benefits, Gov. Mike Parson said that continuing these programs “only worsens the workforce issues we’re currently facing.”
“It’s time that we end these programs that have incentivized people to stay out of the workforce,” he said.
South Carolina Gov.. Henry McMaster said the additional unemployment benefits were meant to help people during the height of the pandemic, but has, “turned into a dangerous federal entitlement,” resulting in his cuts of the programs last week.
“In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker’s previous paychecks,” McMaster said. “These federal entitlements pose a clear and present danger to the health of our State’s businesses and to our economy.
“Since the Biden administration and Congress appear to have little to no comprehension of the damage being done and no appetite to terminate the federal payments, the State of South Carolina must take action.”
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey said that it’s time for Alabamians to “get back to work” in her statement announcing the end of the state’s participation in the programs.
“We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions,” Ivey said in a statement. “Vaccinations are available for all adults.”
Studies have suggested the increased unemployment benefits have not affected job searches. And labor experts say the shortage is not just about the $300 payment.
Some unemployed people also have been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the coronavirus. Others have found new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. Many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.
“Our economic recovery is nuanced, and many Missourians haven’t been able to return to work because they still have children home from school or jobs aren’t available in their areas,” Amy Blouin, president and of the Missouri Budget Project, said.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that the number one reason people are not going back to work is “fear, due to the virus.”
Contributing: Natalie Allison, Nashville Tennessean; Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser; Summer Ballentine, Springfield News-Leader; Keisha Rowe, Clarion Ledger; The Associated Press