Mixed feelings as Gov. Reeves puts stop to federal unemployment benefits

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Federal unemployment benefits will soon run out for thousands of Mississippians.

On Monday, Governor Tate Reeves announced the state would no longer accept Pandemic Unemployment Assistance beginning June 12.

Mississippi joins Alabama, Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina as the only states to opt out of federal unemployment benefits.

Reeves took to social media to make the announcement.

“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,” said Reeves.

For Andy Nesenson, General Manager at The Iron Horse Grill in Jackson, this is a decision he’s been waiting for and favors.

“This going to get people back applying for jobs, whether it’s for servers or whether it’s in the kitchen,” said Nesenson. “We’ve been struggling now almost for a year since the re-open. Hopefully this will encourage them to say, look, once this benefit dries up it’s time to get back to employment.”

Nesenson said he sees employees choosing to remain unemployed because of the benefits being offered.

“Because they know they can go back home and they can get the state unemployment benefit, followed by the $300 federal unemployment benefit, and they can live off that until September and not have to go back to work,” said Nesenson.

Mississippians who are unemployed are now receiving up to $235 weekly, plus the additional $300 from the federal government.

District 65 state representative Chris Bell said he opposes the governor’s decision and believes it’s not the federal benefits that’s keeping people from working.

”When you have people that come out and say they haven’t been able to find people to come to work, I kind of disagree with that,” said Bell. “What I find is that individuals who are highly qualified can’t find jobs that are paying a decent wage, that is the problem that we have.”

The state lawmaker said he thinks the governor is doing a disservice to the many people still relying on the federal help.

“I would like the governor to lay out a proposal or a plan to increase the minimum wage, find new solutions into finding more job opportunities to come to the state of Mississippi, more job creation, and not just assume that people are lazy and are sitting at home collecting free checks, that’s not true,” said Bell.

In light of the federal benefits being cut, District 110 State Representative Jeramey Anderson said he plans to introduce a new bill that would increase minimum wage to $9 dollars an hour.

”Too many people have to rely on government assistance to make ends meet because of pitifully low pay,” said Anderson. “Passing my bill would be the first step towards changing that.”

Anderson said he plans to introduce the legislation during next year’s legislative session.

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