Bill Lee, the Republican governor of Tennessee, has made a huge move to get his state back to work.
And I mean huge.
On Tuesday, Lee announced that he was opting Tennessee out of a federal pandemic relief program that offers a supplement $300/week in unemployment benefits. Republicans have argued that the program makes it more profitable for low-wage workers to stay at home.
“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Governor Bill Lee said on Twitter. “Families, businesses & our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment & move on from short-term, federal fixes.”
Learn more about the federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end on July 3 https://t.co/7XudvA4SfT
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 11, 2021
Several other Southern states have similarly chosen to opt out of the program. Tennessee is also “ending participation in federal programs that have allowed those who don’t usually qualify for benefits, such as the self-employed, to receive them, as well as an initiative that extended the payments once regular unemployment benefits expired,” according to the Nashville Tennessean.
Tennesseans currently receive approximately $575/week in unemployment benefits, the equivalent of $14.38 per hour for a 40-hour week, which is nearly double the federal minimum wage. Earlier this week, Biden claimed there was no real evidence that people weren’t returning to work because of government benefits, even though employers have reported having plenty of jobs to fill but no workers taking them.
We need more leaders to step up and get our country out of this economic malaise.