More Governors End Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

By: - July 2, 2021 12:00 am

A New York City pizza shop manager looks to place a “now hiring” sign on the front door of the restaurant. As some retailers struggle to find workers, more governors are opting out of pandemic-related federal jobless benefits. Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via The Associated Press

At least four more states have announced they will opt out of federal COVID-19 unemployment assistance programs before the official Labor Day expiration date, Sept. 6.

Louisiana, the first Democratic-led state to end benefits, and the Republican-led Florida, Maryland and Nebraska, became the latest states to end the additional -a-week federal unemployment assistance and other pandemic unemployment programs.

The governors argue that the benefits discourage people from taking jobs. But economists say cutting off federal aid affects people’s livelihoods—especially people of color and residents of rural areas saddled with slow job growth and limited transportation options and job opportunities.


So far nearly two dozen states have moved to pull the federal benefits. Montana in May was the first state to announce it would end the program, cutting off the benefits June 27. Other states followed suit, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. All have Republican governors.

A March analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data by the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, found that more than 16 million workers would be affected if all states decided to pull the plug on the benefits—and states would lose nearly billion in benefits. For the states that followed through, nearly billion in benefits have been lost, affecting more than 4 million workers.

Last month, some Indiana residents sued GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb, arguing that the state’s rejection of the benefits, which ended on Juneteenth, violated the state’s law ensuring benefits for citizens. Two weeks later, a Marion County judge ruled in favor of the residents and ordered the state to reinstate the benefits. This made Indiana the first state to resume the cancelled assistance.

The state’s attorney general appealed the order June 29.


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Aallyah Wright

Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K-12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta.