NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee announced Tuesday that Tennessee will no longer accept federal COVID-19 aid for unemployment.
There are currently 109,900 claimants in Tennessee receiving benefits through federal unemployment programs, according to the Department of Labor.
The state is falling in line with eight other states, including Alabama and Mississippi in dismissing the extra support.
This comes even with a cut in weekly unemployment benefits from 26 weeks down to 12.
“We also want to move people from a benefit to meaningful employment and that’s the goal of what we’re doing,” Governor Bill Lee said.
Lee, a Republican, is pushing ahead with rejecting the $300 federal pandemic unemployment assistance payout.
“I don’t think it’s fair- people need it,” Ed Gragg, who lives in Tennessee said.
The current unemployment rate is 5 percent in the Volunteer State.
The move is drawing strong reaction from folks who are in line waiting benefits.
“It’s costing me three times for the lumber to buy as it did last year and they’re saying that’s going to get worse, so who is he to make a decision that by July 3rd everybody is going to be busy? I don’t know if I’m going to be back to normal,” a self employed woodworker said.
Others, however, believe there are jobs available and some people should get back to work.
“It’s kind of a 50/50. I mean the people that need it, they need it, but there are people sitting back that are not going. No offense on that but I see it,” Danny James said.
Democrats say it’s a pattern of Governor Lee failing Tennesseans again.
“It’s heartless; I think it’s appalling. It’s ridiculous at this time when people are still hurting. We’re still getting unemployment calls for you to cut the pay,” Rep. Vincent Dixie, a Nashville Democrat said.
Any weeks filed before July 3 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.
Republican Rep. Mark Green praised the move by Governor Lee saying, “As long as the federal government continues to disincentivize work, communities and businesses will suffer.”
Jim Cooper, a Democrat, released a statement in part saying, “I voted to give Tennesseans this help during the pandemic, but Gov. Lee is taking it away. Is that how he would want to be treated? Is he obeying the golden rule? What would Jesus do?”