More than 1.2 million Americans will lose pandemic unemployment benefits early as more Republican states drop relief

Montana was the first to announce it would drop the federal program
Originally Published: 13 MAY 21 12:23 ET

(CNN) — More than 1.2 million jobless Americans are set to lose their pandemic unemployment benefits early, with Georgia becoming the latest Republican-led state to announce it would cease providing $300 payments approved by Congress.

More than a dozen states have announced in the past week that they would terminate the $300 weekly federal boost to state benefits, as well as the federal expansion of jobless benefits to freelancers, independent contractors, certain people affected by the virus and those who have run out of their regular state benefits.

“These changes have the potential to drastically scale back assistance to jobless workers far too early in the recovery,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, who calculated how many people would be affected. “Nationally, there are still 16.8 million workers on one of the unemployment programs, and the nation is still short 8 million-plus jobs from the start of the pandemic.”

Democrats recently extended the pandemic unemployment programs until early September as part of their $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

Montana last week was the first to announce it was pulling out of the federal program, citing severe worker shortages. The announcement was followed by South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Idaho, Tennessee, Wyoming, South Dakota and Utah. Other red states are likely to follow.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Fox News Thursday morning that he would cease the $300 federal payments in mid- to late-June.

“Thanks to our measured reopening, Georgia’s unemployment rate is well below the national average,” he tweeted. “Now it is time for Georgians to get back to work so we can fully return to normal in the Peach State!”

The terminations are likely to widen the split between Republican officials and business owners on one side and Democrats and workers on the other. The former argue that the more generous payments are keeping Americans from returning to the labor market. They point to the growing shortage of workers as evidence that people would rather stay home than accept job offers.

Democrats and workers, however, argue that millions of people remain out of work and cannot return easily because their children are still learning remotely or they remain concerned about the coronavirus.

President Joe Biden, while warning Monday that people who can work must accept offers or lose their benefits, said most Americans want to be employed if possible.

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