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Reeves: Mississippi to drop federal unemployment supplement

(AP) Mississippi will stop accepting supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal government next month, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday.

Reeves said the weekly supplement of $300 per person was intended to help people “who are unemployed through no fault of their own” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“After many conversations over the last several weeks with Mississippi small business owners and their employees, it has become clear that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other like programs passed by the Congress may have been necessary in May of last year but are no longer so in May of this year,” Reeves wrote on Facebook.

Alabama, Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina are also planning to stop accepting the $300 federal supplement.

Reeves said he has told the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to tell the federal government that the state will opt out of the additional federal unemployment benefits June 12, the earliest date allowed by federal law. Without the federal supplement, the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Mississippi is $235, according to the department.

“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,” Reeves wrote.

The governor said also told the Department of Employment Security to enforce the requirement for a person to document that he or she is looking for a job in order to receive unemployment benefits. The job search requirement had been waived during the past year because of the pandemic.

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn sent Reeves a letter Monday saying that he and other lawmakers have heard from “increasingly desperate” businesspeople who say they cannot fill jobs.

“They report that they cannot get employees to return to work because they can earn more from combined federal and state unemployment benefits than their normal wages,” Gunn wrote in the letter, which Republican state Rep. Nick Bain posted on Twitter.

A 40-hour-per-week job at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would pay $290 a week before taxes are taken out.