NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Starting the morning of July 4, people receiving unemployment benefits in Tennessee may see smaller payments.
Governor Bill Lee announced on May 11 that the state would stop participating in four federal pandemic unemployment programs effective at 11:59 p.m. on July 3. He sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor announcing the intent to pull out of four federal programs:
- The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program: This program provides an additional $300 every week in unemployment benefits.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program: This federal program provides benefits for people who would not usually qualify for them, such as part-time workers and self-employed workers.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program: The program extended benefits for people participating in federal unemployment programs.
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation Program: The program gives an extra $100 in unemployment benefits to some people with mixed types of earnings.
Gov. Lee said that he decided to pull out of the program because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in the state. In a release, he did not mention specific regions those jobs may be available in, or which industries workers could apply to work in. He also did not mention their pay rates.
The Tennessee Workforce Development System provides resources to help people find jobs, including career specialists to help workers find employment opportunities. They are available at more than 80 American Job Centers across Tennessee.
They are also available to help people enter apprenticeship programs and make similar career changes. Workers can also use the Tennessee Virtual American Job Center to research programs and connect with employers. Claimants can also search for jobs at Jobs4TN.
The Associated Press also noted that several states are pushing unemployed people to find work in order to help businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic. Many leaders have said that the federal unemployment benefits could influence workers' decisions to return to work.
Four other states announced that they would end the federal benefits — Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina.
Labor experts have said that many workers are reluctant to return to find work out of fears of catching the coronavirus. Governor Bill Lee and several county leaders announced an end to COVID-19 safety regulations and mask mandates.
Representative Gloria Johnson (D - District 13) condemned the decision on Twitter. In a post, she said that several affluent people and legislators received multiple Paycheck Protection Program loans as part of federal programs meant to help businesses during the pandemic.
Leaders in the Democratic Caucus also condemned the decision, with some saying that families still depend on the benefits.
However, Representative Jason Zachary said he approved of the decision. In a post on Twitter, he said the decision would urge unemployed workers to find jobs and push the state's economy towards full employment as businesses start finding more workers.