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Missouri ending weekly $300 federal unemployment boost

The argument is that people make more money staying home than going back to work

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri is joining a growing list of states that are putting an end to the extra federal pandemic-related unemployment checks and benefits for residents, Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday afternoon.

Parson said the move is meant to encourage residents to return to work, as businesses and industries across the state are having difficulty hiring enough employees.

“Many business owners and employers across the state are struggling, not because of COVID-19 but because they can’t find the people to fill the jobs,” Gov. Parson said.

The governor announced the state will end participation in all six federal pandemic-related unemployment programs effective Saturday, June 12, including the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment checks. He said the programs served their purpose but now is the time to move forward.

“They were intended to be temporary,” Parson said. “Continuing these programs only worsens the current workforce issues we’re facing.”

The following programs are being terminated in Missouri:

  • 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; and
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

Thousands of Missourians have been receiving the $300 federal checks on top of the state's unemployment benefit of up to $320.

"Meaning thousands of claimants continue to receive $620 per week or more," said Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Anna Hui.

Besides dropping the $300 weekly boosts, the state also will go back to requiring beneficiaries to actively search for a job, whether that's filling out an application, going to a job fair or interviewing for a position.

Missouri is at least the seventh state to announce it will refuse the federal unemployment benefits. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, South Carolina and Iowa state leaders announced federal unemployment benefits would end for their residents in the coming weeks.

Many blame the easy benefits that followed the pandemic. The argument is that people make more money staying home than going back to work.

Gov. Parson echoed those concerns Tuesday, saying the federal programs “incentivized people to stay out of the workforce.”

“One of the last remaining hurdles to a full economic recovery is addressing this workforce shortage,” Parson added.

Labor experts say the shortage is not just about the $300 payment. Some unemployed people also have been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus. Others have found new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.

“Long term, this is something that you know is going to be debated for a long time," said David Hartley, a Partner and Director of Services at Anders CPAS and Advisors in downtown St. Louis. "Is it a right move? Are we doing things too early? Are we leaving vulnerable people and making them more vulnerable? I think all of the factors are valid.”

You can watch Gov. Parson's full announcement in the YouTube video below.

Missouri's unemployment rate is at 4.2%, but the governor said there are still 221,266 known job openings across the state.

Restaurants and the hospitality industry have had an especially difficult time lately filling openings, despite incentives, bonuses and other additional perks they didn't offer employees pre-pandemic.

READ MORE: Restaurants struggle to hire staff as crowds slowly return

Gov. Parson's office said Missouri Job Centers are available to help unemployed residents search for and find job openings. More information about available services can be found on the Missouri Job Centers website.

“I’m really disappointed in Governor Parson’s decision to do that,” said Amanda Chasnoff.

Chasnoff is the Senior Manager at Ces and Judy’s Catering in Frontenac.

Chasnoff says while they desperately need workers, she doesn’t think slicing the federal, supplemental checks is the way to go.

“Having an additional $300 when you are struggling to pay your rent, when you’re struggling to pay for groceries or even just bus fare, it really does make a difference. I think by cutting the benefits, that is a disservice to Missourians in general,“ said Chasnoff.

U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush, who represents St. Louis and St. Louis County, provided the following statement in response to the announcement:

“The governor has consistently failed to meet the needs of Missourians since this pandemic began. He failed to address COVID-19 as infections rose. He failed to institute a mask mandate even though the science shows masks are effective in saving lives. He failed to equitably distribute the vaccine, abandoning Black and brown communities that have been hit hardest by this pandemic, from St. Louis to Kansas City. Every step of the way, Governor Parson has failed the people of Missouri—and today’s announcement is yet another massive failure that will put the lives and livelihoods of regular, everyday people at risk.

“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.

“As public officials, we have a duty to protect all of our communities and our number one priority must be saving lives. When I was unhoused, living out of a car with my two babies, I was working on a starvation wage. I know what it’s like to work 40, 50 or 60 hours a week and still not have enough to live. My story is not unique; it’s one shared by thousands across our state. We cannot blame federal unemployment benefits for worker shortages. The only way our economy, our region, and our country can heal from this pandemic is by treating workers with the respect and dignity they deserve, and that begins by paying them a living wage.

“Put simply, today’s decision by Governor Parson is cruel. It will only serve to punish those most impacted by this pandemic and who need this relief the most. Too many lives have been devastated under the Governor’s watch. We cannot afford to lose one more life or livelihood because of his cruelty.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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