Missouri Joins Other GOP States In Ending COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits | KCUR 89.3

JEFFERSON CITY – Governor Mike Parson announced Tuesday that Missouri will end participation in a federal program that provides additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week.

It’s a similar move that other GOP-led states have taken in recent weeks that claims the benefit is in motivating people not to work – and this in turn leads to labor shortages in places like restaurants.

During a press conference at the Missouri State Capitol, Parson said Missouri will no longer participate in six COVID-19-related unemployment programs run by the federal government. For example, unemployed workers can receive $ 300 per week on top of government benefits.

Parson said federal unemployment benefits are preventing people from going back to work.

“It’s time we put an end to these programs that have encouraged people to stay out of the workforce,” said Parson. “This is an important step in returning to normal and strengthening our economy.”

Other Republican-led states like Montana and South Carolina have announced plans to stop providing federal unemployment benefits. This comes amid widespread reports of restaurants and other businesses struggling to find workers to keep up with increased demand.

Parson said while the benefits were helpful to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, he added that they shouldn’t last forever.

“Continuing these programs only exacerbates the workforce problems we are currently facing,” said Parson.

Parson’s announcement resulted in a conviction by US Representative Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, which has strongly supported the unemployment benefits included in the American rescue plan. She said Parson’s “announcement is another massive failure that will put the lives and livelihoods of normal, everyday people at risk.”

“I know what it’s like to work 40, 50 or 60 hours a week and still not live enough,” said Bush. “My story is not unique. It is one that is shared by thousands in our state. We cannot blame federal unemployment benefits for the labor shortage. The only way our economy, region and country can be cured from this pandemic is to treat workers with the respect and dignity they deserve, and that starts with paying them a living wage. ”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones also slammed the decision in a tweet, stating that “cutting unemployment benefits just to force Missourians into jobs with no living wage or benefits will only increase the poverty of our working families.” .

“Do you want to get people back to work? Pay them at least $ 15 an hour, ”wrote Jones.

Parson said he disagrees with claims that workers are not returning to places like restaurants because they want to find jobs with higher wages than they were before the pandemic began.

“With the return of business, you’re seeing more and more employers who know they’ll have to pay more money to get their employees back on,” Parson said. “Where someone decides to go to work is entirely up to the individual. But I think the reality is that the market itself will set wages in the state of Missouri, and we’re seeing that grow every day too. ”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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