MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs will end in the state effective July 3.
“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”
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.
Tennessee is the third Mid-South state to end additional benefits. The governors of Mississippi and Arkansas also made similar announcements this week.
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.
Federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end on July 3 include the following:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings
Unemployment claimants in Tennessee have been required to complete three weekly job searches in order to remain eligible for benefits since Oct. 4, 2020. Any weeks filed before July 3 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.
Members of Tennessee’s Democratic Caucus immediately condemned the governor’s decision in a statement.
“More than 200,000 Tennesseans have been laid off since Jan. 1 and the Lee administration just made the irresponsible decision to punish their families in a time of need,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “That’s not leadership, it’s legislative violence. This callous decision highlights just how out of touch this administration is with the lives of everyday Tennesseans.”
Gov. Lee’s letter to the U.S. Department of Labor can be viewed here.