Four states suspended unemployment aid on Saturday.
Cuts in Mississippi, Missouri, Alaska and Iowa squeeze aid from 340,000 workers.
The Biden administration is highly unlikely to step in and prevent the unemployment aid losses.
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For nearly 340,000 workers on Saturday, a steady stream of federal aid will come to an abrupt end.
Mississippi, Missouri, Alaska, and Iowa are the first four Republican-led states to drop their federal unemployment insurance programs. They include the $ 300 federal supplement to unemployment checks, as well as a pair of federal programs that have expanded government assistance to concert workers, freelancers, and long-term unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No additional federal aid will come out in those states after this weekend. This means that the level of wage replacement with regular unemployment assistance will not be half of workers’ past income, by data Andrew Stettner, senior researcher and unemployment policy expert at the Left Century Foundation.
Some 22 million jobs in the United States were lost last year due to the pandemic, many of which are low-wage positions.
Twenty-five GOP-led states end unemployment insurance programs over the summer, putting aid to nearly four million people at risk, according to Stettner. Republican governors argue that federal aid is preventing people from re-entering the workforce, slowing economic recovery.
“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we fill the thousands of jobs available in our state,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said last month.
Unemployment assistance has been extended until early September under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief law enacted three months ago. But many employers and Republicans have stepped up their complaints about worker shortages, especially in the leisure and hospitality sector, although these sectors jobs added in the past two months.
Biden appears to have displayed some sensitivity to criticism. The president said last week that it made “sense” for federal unemployment assistance to expire on Labor Day. Then White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Republican governors had “every right” to cancel the administration’s unemployment assistance programs.
Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as some economic experts, argue that the government has a legal obligation to step in and distribute aid to at least concert workers through the Unemployment Assistance Program in the event of pandemic. But the Ministry of Labor – which administers the program – concluded there was little they could do about it.
Some Democrats in Congress have strongly criticized the measures taken by the GOP.
“No one would have to face financial ruin living in Republican-ruled states,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement last month. He recently told Politico that he is considering a new bill to remedy the situation, although such a plan faces a surge in the equally divided Senate.
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