Mississippi governor to end federal unemployment benefits

"It has become clear that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other like programs passed by the Congress may have been necessary in May of last year but are no longer so in May of this year,” Gov. Tate Reeves declared.

It looks like Mississippi is ending its additional federal unemployment benefits.

The governor of the state announced on Monday that the additional unemployment benefits allocated due to the pandemic are deterring its residents from returning to work. Businesses in the state claim they have an abundance of jobs available but finding workers has been difficult, per WLOX News.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves  thegrio.com
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves delivers a televised address prior to signing a bill retiring the last state flag in the United States with the Confederate battle emblem, at the Governor’s Mansion June 30, 2020 in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis-Pool/Getty Images)

“The purpose of unemployment benefits is to temporarily assist Mississippians who are unemployed through no fault of their own. After many conversations over the last several weeks with Mississippi small business owners and their employees, it has become clear that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other like programs passed by the Congress may have been necessary in May of last year but are no longer so in May of this year,” posted Governor Tate Reeves to Facebook.

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“Therefore, I have informed the Department of Employment Security to direct the Biden Administration that Mississippi will be opting out of the additional federal unemployment benefits as early as federal law allows – June 12, 2021. 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. I have also directed MDES to prioritize pre-pandemic enforcement of all eligibility requirements for any individual to receive unemployment benefits under state law. Mississippi is open for business!.”

Other states such as Montana, South Carolina and Alabama are also making plans to end the additional aid. According to Reeves, federal law will allow states to opt-out of the additional unemployment benefits on June 12.

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In a letter, State Rep. Philip Gunn requested that the governor take these measures. His argument is that due to the additional aid residents do not want to work because “they can earn more from combined federal and state unemployment benefits than their normal wages.”

Many businesses in the state claim to have job opening but because of the additional benefits it has been a struggle getting folks to apply.

“The new challenge for the operators down here, which is actually not that new, is staffing,” said the Assistant General Manager at Golden Nugget Biloxi, Scott King. “Labor is a little bit tough to come by no matter whether it’s a hotel, casino, food and beverage, retail or even a player services job. Across the gamut, we have job openings right now, and I don’t think that is unique to Golden Nugget, so there’s lots of opportunities if someone’s looking.”

Another employer said they had to cut back hours due to a lack of employees.

“We have changed our business hours, actually, to accommodate lack of employees, we’re overworked,” said owner of CW’s Family Restaurant in Gulfport, Chad Leslie.

But many argue ending the benefit is cruel and sheds a light on the non-livable wages businesses are actually offering its employees.

“Naw but seriously the Governor Of Mississippi, who just reaffirmed confederate heritage month, taking away $300/wk in federal unemployment benefits so people can go work for peanuts is disgusting,” tweeted out author, Elexus Jionde.

“Gunn’s letter didn’t say how much the business owners he cited offered in wages. Restaurants have been some of the most vocal about struggling to find employees. They can pay as little as $2.13 per hour under the federal hourly tipped minimum wage law,” added Ashton Pittman, senior reporter of Mississippi Free Press.

Mississippi’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour which equates to $290.00 for 40-hours a week. Without the $300 a week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, the highest weekly benefit amount an unemployed person in Mississippi is eligible for is $235.00.

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