Governor says Mississippi can’t afford to add to jobless benefits

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says the state cannot afford $100 per recipient, per week, to bolster unemployment payments during the coronavirus pandemic. But, the Republican governor is praising President Donald Trump for proposing that states provide the money.

The federal government’s $600-a-week jobless benefit supplement recently expired. That prompted Trump on Saturday to bypass the nation’s lawmakers and claim the authority to replace the expired benefit with a lower amount, with the federal government paying $300 a week and the states paying $100 a week. Critics question the validity of the order.

Reeves said Monday that Mississippi had $706 million in its unemployment trust fund in early March. Last week, the fund had $489 million. That included $181 million that came from the federal government through a coronavirus relief act.

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Mississippi is currently spending about $22 million a week from its unemployment trust fund, and the Trump proposal would double the state’s weekly expense, Reeves said. He said that would drain Mississippi’s unemployment trust fund in about 10 weeks.

“I appreciate the president stepping up and trying to help workers. … There are a lot of members of Congress that talk. The president acts,” Reeves said.

The governor also said most Mississippi residents who received the $600 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit were collecting more money by not working than they had been earning in their jobs.

“That certainly is not a recipe for getting people back to work in the economy,” Reeves said.