Justin Bullock, FISM News
Four states, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri, are the first to cut the federal unemployment benefits that were implemented over the last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment saw a sharp rise across the country over the last year due to the shuttering of thousands of American businesses, particularly in the service industries. This was the result of strict pandemic restrictions and regulations that shrunk business, particularly for restaurants, bars, and retailers, to miniscule levels.
In response, the federal government enacted additional unemployment benefits for the people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic’s impact. These benefits most notably included a $300.00 per week stipend, in addition to whatever unemployment income you qualified for. These benefits were originally designed to help people from falling into debt or worse and seemed to accomplish their goal for awhile.
Now, as the pandemic comes to an end and restrictions are lifted, dozens of states are realizing that the unemployment benefits, which are set to expire in September of this year, are disincentivizing people from seeking work. Employers, particularly in the service industries, are desperate for workers, but many people who are receiving the enhanced unemployment benefits are better served staying on unemployment rather than seek a job. The result has been that many state governors are calling for the federal government to end the unemployment benefits now in order to spur the re-emergence of businesses across the country, rapid growth of the economy, and increased tax revenues with decreased budget deficits.
For this reason, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri, all ended the pandemic enhancements to unemployment on Saturday. Many other states have already announced dates that they too will end the additional unemployment benefits, most by July 1, 2021.
For its part, the federal government has indicated that it respects states’ prerogative to prohibit the pandemic unemployment benefits for their residents before the September expiration date. In addition, the White House has said that the benefits will not be extended once they expire in September.