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Additional pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits end for Mississippians Saturday

Additional pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits end for Mississippians Saturday
Additional pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits end for Mississippians Saturday
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippians receiving the additional pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits will get the last of those payments tomorrow.

Critics of the federal unemployment assistance say that the extra $300 a week is keeping people from going back to work. On the other hand, supporters say much of the issue lies within the state’s failure to boost minimum wage.

“I think the unemployment checks overall have been very good for the state of Mississippi because folks have been receiving those funds and spending those dollars they’ve been receiving,” Senator Hillman Frazier said.

But the owner of Madison’s Georgia Blue said the extra assistance has made hiring new workers a lot more difficult than in the past. He said this is mostly because job-seekers have higher expectations.

“I think the base wage that you could usually pay someone to cook in a kitchen is definitely a lot higher or at least expected to be higher than it was say a couple years ago,” Jason Burgardt said.

This has forced him to adapt by offering incentives like bonuses to employees who refer new hires.

“It’s more of an incentive shortage than an employee shortage to me, so you just kind of have to retool things and rework how you think and try to attack it from a different angle,” Burgardt said.

Burgardt supports Governor Tate Reeve’s decision to opt out of the federal unemployment assistance because it will help businesses like his find more entry-level employment.

Senator Frazier, on the other hand, said many people receiving federal unemployment checks aren’t interested in restaurant jobs because they don’t pay livable wages, leaving those trying to support a family in a difficult position.

“It’s going to force a lot of them to take on two and three jobs just to make ends meet because they just can’t meet obligations with minimum wage jobs in this state,” he said.

According to the Millsaps College 2021 State of the State survey, 55% of voters support Governor Reeves’ decision to end the federal assistance early.

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