JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- In a press conference in May, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced the state would be ending federal unemployment benefits in the state. According to the governor, Missouri will end participation in all federal benefit programs instituted to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning June 12.
"While these federal benefits provided necessary financial assistance during the height of COVID-19, they were intended to be temporary. Continuing these programs only worsens the workforce issues we are currently facing," Parson said. "It's time that we end these programs that have incentivized people to stay out of the workforce."
The termination announced 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; and
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.
On average, a person receiving unemployment from the federal government and state of Missouri is seeing $620 a week. According to the governor, the unemployment rate in Missouri has dropped to 4.2 percent and employment increased by more than 15,000 jobs in March. As of June 12, anyone receiving unemployment in the state will get roughly $330 per week.
Under Missouri’s law, residents are required to perform and report three work search activities per week. Qualified work search activities include filing an application (online or in-person) with an employer or through job posting sites or attending a job fair, job interview, reemployment service, or skills workshop.
In recent weeks, employers have been outspoken about frustrations over difficulties hiring workers, especially in the food service industry. One of the proposed reasons behind the problem has been that unemployment benefits are precluding people from returning to work.
"With more than 221,000 known job openings across this state, we know that the jobs are out there. One of the last remaining hurdles to full economic recovery is addressing this labor shortage," Parson said.
However, workers have said concerns over COVID-19 safety have driven their decision, as well as wage considerations based on what the industry had previously been willing to pay. When asked to provide data supporting that unemployment benefits were the sole driver of people staying out of the workforce, Parson said, "All you have to do is get out and drive down the road anywhere in Missouri and there's 'help wanted' in every location in Missouri. Whether it's small businesses or big businesses, this is not an isolated area. This is more of a common sense issue. We all know where the labor market is at and we are looking for people to go to work. IT's time they go back to work."
Missouri's unemployment benefit system left many recipients in a state of confusion as the state announced thousands of residents may need to repay some of the money they received during 2020. Those announcements were met with opposition and several lawmakers moved to forgive overpayments.
Missouri is the seventh state to end federal unemployment programs, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina.