Four states ended their federal unemployment insurance benefits over the weekend, the first of 25 states that will end the program before it is set to expire in September.
Alaska, Iowa, Missouri and Mississippi all announced the federal program that grew out of COVID-19 funding bills and paid those out of work $300 a week on top of any state unemployment benefit they are receiving would end.
“As Alaska’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide range of job opportunities and workers are needed,” Tamika Ledbetter, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s commissioner, said in a statement.
Mississippi’s Gov. Tate Reeves said, “It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled.”
In a letter sent to the White House in April, nearly 40 Democrats urged President Joe Biden to implement a series of new federal standards for unemployment insurance programs. The proposal included extending the duration of the payments, expanding who would be eligible for the benefits, increasing the amount of jobless payments and implementing a system that would more be tied to economic conditions.
Earlier this month, a group of House Republicans urged the Biden administration to end the federal unemployment program, saying the added benefit is hampering the U.S. economy’s recovery following the 15-month coronavirus pandemic.
The May national unemployment rate was 5.5%.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act in March 2020 as the country shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provided a $600 weekly check from the federal government to those who were unemployed. The money was in addition to benefits they were already receiving from their state. In a subsequent COVID-19 relief bill, the aid was dropped to $300 a week and extended until Sept. 6.
When the program is ended in all 25 states, federal benefits will end for some 3.9 million unemployed workers.
The other states planning to end federal unemployment benefits by July 10 include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
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