Several Republican-led states are ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits for its residents. Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee were among the latest Southern states to make the announcement, after their leaders said the additional money isn’t necessary.
Montana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa already withdrew from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance after President Joe Biden extended the benefits under the American Rescue Plan.
The funds were first made available in March 2020 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by Donald Trump. The Act provided an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits to workers who were ineligible for unemployment benefits.
The state leaders now pulling the funds say the number of jobs and employment numbers indicate that the assistance isn’t needed anymore. Some of the state leaders say that providing the benefit disincentivizes people from working.
“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday (May 11). “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term federal fixes.”
Advocates say ending the benefits will disproportionately impact Black and Latino workers who were financially vulnerable before the start of the pandemic and are overrepresented in low wage jobs.