Missouri cancels $300 federal COVID unemployment benefit, cites labor shortage

National

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KTVI) – Governor Mike Parson has announced that Missouri will join several states ending pandemic-related federal programs that include extra payments to unemployed workers.

Parson said on Tuesday that the additional benefits are causing a labor shortage in the state and are hindering the state’s economy — a charge echoed by conservative groups and Republican governors in several other states.

“We know that one of the last remaining hurdles to full economic recovery is addressing this labor shortage. Even with unemployment at only 4.2 percent, there are still 221,266 known job postings across the state,” Governor Parson said. “The solution to close this gap is not the excessive spending of taxpayer dollars by the federal government, but rather getting people back to work and to a sense of normalcy for themselves and their families. Today’s action ensures that we will fill existing jobs as well as the thousands of new jobs coming to our state as businesses continue to invest and expand in Missouri.” 

The termination announced today applies to the following programs:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
  • Emergency Unemployment Relief for Government Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
  • 100 Percent Reimbursement of Short-Time Compensation Benefit Costs Paid Under State Law
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation

“The federal unemployment programs I helped secure through the American Rescue Plan have been an essential lifeline to our district. In St. Louis and across Missouri, these desperately needed resources are helping to keep our communities healthy, fed, and housed,” writes US Congresswoman Cori Bush.

“Even after the original $600 supplement expired, it was replaced by a federal supplement that provides an extra $300 per week on top of Missouri’s existing state benefit, meaning thousands of claimants continue to receive $620 per week or more,” writes Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Anna Hui. “The unemployment system is designed to provide a temporary safety net as workers look to reenter the job market. Leaving the level of benefits artificially high would prevent a return to full employment in our state.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds made a similar announcement today. Mississippi announced on Monday the state will end the extra unemployment benefit effective June 12 and Arkansas announced on Friday its plans to end the additional payments. Montana and South Carolina both announced similar plans last week.

Missouri will end the federal boosts, including an additional $300-a-week unemployment payment. That benefit was scheduled to run through early September.

The governor also said that while the payments from the federal government were crucial for Missourians when the pandemic began, they are now acting as a deterrent for people to return to the workforce.

Supporters of the federal unemployment programs point to other factors, including those reluctant to take jobs in service industries that require contact with the public for fear of contracting COVID-19 and parents who don’t have child care.

The federal benefits will end June 12. Regular, pre-pandemic unemployment benefits will remain available.

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