Out-of-work residents in Tennessee are suing the state’s governor to reinstate the enhanced unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) removed those benefits in July in order to spur economic growth.
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“[The federal] program has served as a lifeline for thousands of Tennesseans who remain affected by the pandemic,” argues Nashville attorneys W. Gary Blackburn and Bryant Kroll. “Thousands of Tennesseans, who were already struggling to pay for their housing even with the assistance of the federal benefits, have already lost those benefits, and are facing the loss of the protections provided by the moratorium.”
The lawsuit was filed by just seven individuals who claim they have been unable to find work despite having filled out ‘hundreds’ of job applications. Without the federal program, these individuals are receiving just $275 per week in unemployment benefits (they had been receiving about $575).
“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” stated Governor Lee. “Families, businesses, and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”
Roughly half of states opted out of one or more federal jobless programs before the September expiration date and lawsuits to reverse that decision are pending in Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, and Texas. Residents in Indiana and Maryland were successful in suing to stop their governors from opting out of federal programs.
According to Fox News, there are an estimated 270,000 job openings in the state of Tennessee. Polls suggest 65% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans think unemployment benefits should continue past September.