Several GOP States to End COVID Unemployment Benefits

Several GOP States to End COVID Unemployment Benefits tate reeves stands behind podium in rose garden Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks on COVID-19 testing in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Tuesday, 11 May 2021 12:17 PM

Several states with a Republican-majority have taken steps to end the additional $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying that this will encourage Americans to return to work.

Arkansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Mississippi have all announced that their additional unemployment benefits will expire within the next month, according to NBC News.

"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," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said on Monday while announcing that the additional benefit will cease in June. "The purpose of unemployment benefits is to temporarily assist Mississippians who are unemployed through no fault of their own."

NBC notes that April’s employment report posted disappointing results, with only 266,000 jobs added that month after forecasts predicted about 1 million, and the unemployment rate rose by 0.1%. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that this report was directly linked to the $300 per week supplemental benefit.

"The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market," U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said in a statement last week. "We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our workforce issues and the very real threat unfilled positions poses to our economic recovery from the pandemic. One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit. Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working."

"Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can't find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage," Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, said in a statement last week. "Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said last Friday in a letter that the additional benefits "have accomplished their purposes," and that "continuing these programs until the planned expiration date of September 4, 2021, is not necessary and actually interferes with the ability of employers to fill over 40,000 job vacancies in Arkansas."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, recently said that he’s asked the state for a "demographic analysis of unemployed Hoosiers over the past 16 months" before he decides whether to end the additional benefits.

Judy Conti, the government affairs director of the research and advocacy group the National Employment Law Project, told NBC that the decision to end the benefit is "ill-informed and cruel," adding, "I don't know why these governors thought you could just flip a switch and suddenly every business was going to get up and running and every worker back to a job. It's still going to take a while to get people back to work. When you choke off money from the unemployed, you're only going to slow your recovery."