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Mississippi to opt out of federally expanded unemployment benefits

photo courtesy Telesouth Communications, INC.

Beginning on June 12th, Mississippians will no longer be eligible for expanded unemployment benefits through the federal government after Governor Tate Reeves announced that the state will be opting out of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

In a Facebook Post, Governor Reeves stated his belief that the program is hurting small businesses by discouraging participation in the workforce as thousands of jobs remain available across the state. 

“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.

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!”

The governor’s announcement follows calls from Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business to leave the program. 

“NFIB’s jobs report for April shows a record 44% of small business owners nationwide have job openings they can’t fill. Our hope is that ending the federal supplement will encourage more people to reenter the workforce,” NFIB State Director Dawn Starns McVea said. 

So far, Montana, South Carolina and Alabama have also opted out of the program that provides $300 a week to those who qualify for unemployment. Businesses owners have expressed in recent months that the expanded benefits have led to a reduction in willing workers, a point emphasized in Gunn’s letter to the governor.

Our economy cannot rely on unemployment funds to spur the economy, we must have Mississippians working again, and we have to support our small business owners who need the help,” Gunn wrote.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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