Missouri Gov. Mike Parson directs state to end participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment programs

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Posted at 2:22 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 17:33:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday he is directing state officials that as of June 12, Missourians will no longer be eligible to participate in all COVID-19 pandemic-related federal unemployment programs.

Parson made the announcement in a less-than-10-minute news conference from the capitol in Jefferson City. He did not know how many Missourians would be affected by his decision.

“Many business owners and employers are still struggling, not because of COVID-19, but because of labor shortages resulting from excessive federal unemployment programs,” Parson said in his remarks.

The governor was unable to provide any data on if ending pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits would help Missouri businesses fill open positions. Instead, Parson described the issue as one of “common sense.”

“All you’ve got to do is see the help wanted signs,” Parson said in response to a question about ending the program.

The governor said the federal unemployment benefits were always meant to be temporary, and leaving them in place was incentivizing workers from returning to the workforce.

The governor also dismissed a question specifically about the restaurant industry and that low wages and poor working conditions were bigger issues in the slow return of workers to restaurant jobs.

Tuesday's announcement affects Missourians receiving benefits in the following programs:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance;
  • Emergency Unemployment Relief for Government Entities and Nonprofit Organizations;
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation;
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation;
  • 100 Percent Reimbursement of Short-Time Compensation Benefit Costs Paid Under State Law; and
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

The federal programs provided an extra $300 per week for some Missourians.

State benefits were not affected by Tuesday's announcement.

The Associated Press reports that roughly 53,000 Missourians were receiving the benefits. Another 37,000 people who wouldn't qualify for regular unemployment, such as contractors, farm workers and self employed, also claimed federal aid.

Missouri joins a handful of other states in calling to end participation in the pandemic-related federal unemployment programs.

Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Carolina also have announced plans to end participation in federal unemployment assistance programs, which were launched under the Trump administration.

The programs were allowed to expire last summer, but Congress reinstated the federal unemployment assistance at a reduced rate rate in December and later extended the benefits into September 2021 with subsequent stimulus packages.

Locally, restaurant owners have said they are struggling to get workers back in their businesses.

In April, 41 Action News spoke with Megan and Colby Garrelts, owners of Rye Leawood and Rye Plaza.

In that interview, Megan Garrelts said she believed the reasons for the employee shortfall were complicated.

"I think some people took time off during COVID, re-evaluated what they wanted to do with their lives, spend time with family, some people have left the industry, some people are still on unemployment," Garrelts said. "You know it’s really personal preference and where people want to be, and I think COVID just heightened some realities for people in their work and life balance."

Jo Marie Scaglia, owner of The Mixx and Caffetteria, told 41 Action News last week he's seeing the same staffing shortages.

"My biggest problem is staffing right now," Scaglia said. "We are probably understaffed at least 30%."

David Lopez, general manger at Manny’s Mexican Restaurant, said his business in the same situation.

"Not a lot of people are walking through our doors to to take some jobs that we we desperately want to give this community," Lopez said.

Nationally, in an interview with CNBC-TV on Monday, the CEO of one of the largest fast-casual dining chains in the country said the reasons business owners in his industry were struggling were complex, but one way he was attempting to bring on new employees was increasing wages to an average of $15/hour.

“We are sharing with people that it’s not just a job right now, but it’s actually a job that can lead to a meaningful career,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said during the interview. “I’m glad that we’re a company that’s got the growth, and frankly the strength, to increase wages and start talking more about how the job leads to your future growth with our company."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.