Saying that there’s a labor shortage across Missouri, Governor Mike Parson (R) has issued a directive to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) to end all federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits. Missouri’s House Democratic Leader is blasting the decision.
Governor Parson made the announcement during a Tuesday afternoon briefing at the Statehouse in Jefferson City, telling Capitol reporters that businesses are struggling from labor shortages. He says they’ve resulted from excessive federal unemployment programs.
“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’re currently facing,” Parson says.
This will also impact pandemic emergency unemployment compensation. Under the governor’s directive, the maximum unemployment checks in Missouri will decrease from $620 to $320 per week. He emphasizes that the additional $300 per week from the federal government was intended to be temporary.
Governor Parson says Missouri’s unemployment rate is now 4.2 percent, and that the state is now first in the nation in small business wage growth. The governor says there are currently more than 221,000 job postings statewide.
“It’s time that we end these programs that have incentivized people to stay out of the workforce. This is an important step towards returning to normalcy, and strengthening our economy,” says Parson.
Under the directive, the state will also deny federal program funding that extended pandemic benefits to gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers.
He says there are labor shortages across the state.
“I’ll tell you, all you got to do is get out and drive down the road anywhere in Missouri and there’s “help wanted” in every location in the state of Missouri, whether it’s a small business or big businesses,” Parson says.
Parson was joined at the Statehouse briefing by Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe (R), who says that from Sarcoxie to Hannibal and everywhere in between, business owners are worried about the shortage of employees. Kehoe praises the governor’s decision, describing it as bold and decisive.
As for DOLIR, Director Anna Hui says that during the 2008 recession, the federal unemployment supplement was $25 per week. The federal supplement during the COVID pandemic has been $600 and later $300 per week, respectively. You can read Director Hui’s letter to federal labor officials here.
The governor’s directive will take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 12.
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-St. Louis) is blasting Governor Parson’s announcement, saying he’s hurting people. Congresswoman Bush tweeted on Tuesday.
Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) is also critical of the governor’s directive.
“Contrary to what the governor claims, the free market – not some federal boogeyman – is primarily responsible for Missouri’s tight labor market. When there are more open jobs than available workers, businesses must increase wages to attract prospective employees, particularly in industries with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure. That’s how supply and demand works. If companies provide a livable wage, applicants will respond. The notion that Missourians are refusing to work so they can temporarily collect $300 a week is an offensive right-wing myth,” Leader Quade says, in a written statement.
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