MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Mississippi has become the latest Mid-South state to announce that weekly $600 unemployment checks will end in June.
The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was launched at the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year, saw the federal government and individual states each pay $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits.
Although the federal program doesn’t expire until September, states have the option of opting out early.
In a Facebook post, Governor Tate Reeves wrote, “It as 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.”
Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in March compared with 6 percent in March 2020, when Covid reached pandemic status.
Friday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansas would withdraw from the federal program on June 26.
WREG asked Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s office if Tennessee would end pandemic unemployment benefits, but did not receive a response.
Statistics show Shelby County has almost recovered from Covid’s impact on unemployment. The unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent in March 2020 before peaking at 14.8 percent in July 2020.
As of February, the latest available month for which data was available, the unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in Shelby County.
State Rep. Hester Jackson McCray, D-Horn Lake, said she generally agrees with Reeves’ decision to end $600 payments in June.
“I think that’s enough time for people to go look for a job and get a job for those who can,” Jackson McCray said.
“They should go out there and get them a job ‘cause there are a lot of jobs opening and they need to take advantage of that,” she added.
But Jackson McCray is also concerned about those who may not be able to return to work.
“I don’t think he should penalize everybody because some people just can’t go back to work right now, you know, they’ve still got kids that’s in virtual learning, and you know, things like that,” said Jackson McCray.