5 GOP-led states extend unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs due to vaccination mandates

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At least five Republican-led states have increased unemployment benefits for people who have lost their jobs due to vaccination mandates – and a few others may soon follow suit.

Employees who resign or are made redundant for good cause – including for violating company policy – are generally not entitled to unemployment benefits. But Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee have created exceptions for those who don’t subscribe to the multi-shot coronavirus vaccine regimes that many businesses are now in need of. Similar ideas were spread in Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Missouri.

Critics claim these states are encouraging people to skip shots that public health experts say are the best line of defense against the coronavirus. Business leaders and industry groups have spoken out against the rule changes because companies would bear a large proportion of the costs. And efforts are showing as the Biden government is pushing vaccination rules for private companies and coronavirus cases are on the rise again due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Observers say it is a sign of the politicization of the coronavirus – with battles flaring up over business closings, mask mandates and more – and how it has messed up state politics and changed long-standing positions. It wasn’t long, they note, that two dozen Republican-led states have decided to cut unemployment benefits to force residents to return to work and alleviate labor shortages.

“These governors, who are using the unemployment insurance system in a moment of political theater to issue a vaccination mandate statement, are the same people who cut unemployment benefits for millions of workers early this summer,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the left-wing national Labor law project. Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Florida all cut federal unemployment benefits in June.

But supporters insist that Americans should be able to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated. Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, R., has generally criticized vaccination mandates for being ineffective and unfair, and tweeted at one point: “Kansans have made it clear they prefer freedom to faucism” – a nod to the name of the leading expert for the country’s infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, whose masking and vaccination advice during the pandemic made him a right-wing target.

Masterson has also brushed aside concerns that the rule changes could lead to an onslaught of jobless claims, draining the state’s unemployment insurance fund, and straining businesses.

“To have a hit for the fund, you have to have an employer who denies and dismisses the employee’s medical and individual rights,” said Masterson. “Simple solution: don’t do that.”

The rule change is one of several government measures designed to undermine President Biden’s vaccine mandate, experts say. His vaccination or test obligation for companies with at least 100 employees and a separate vaccination mandate for employees in the healthcare sector have got stuck in legal challenges. The subject will be heard in the Supreme Court next month.

More about the COVID-19 pandemic

It is unclear how many workplaces will require vaccinations. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in October found that around a quarter of respondents said their employer was compulsory to vaccinate. According to the American Hospital Association, at least 2,640 of the country’s 6,000 hospitals were in need of some form of vaccine as of December. That’s about 44 percent compared to about 41 percent in October.

Surveys suggest that relatively few people left their jobs because of company vaccination mandates; Kaiser’s survey shows that 5 percent of unvaccinated adults fall into this category.

Each state has its own guidelines for eligibility for unemployment benefit, but these are generally accessible to those who are unemployed because of problems beyond their control, such as: B. due to a drop in corporate income. Therefore, someone who is fired for violating company policies that would include vaccination requirements is usually not eligible for allowance.

In some states, however, the new qualification criteria reflect the ideological divide over the country’s pandemic response. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, R., who signed several bills to weaken coronavirus vaccine mandates, was among 24 GOP governors who opposed improved unemployment benefits. But the coverage for vaccination shun is the first time volunteer job-quitters have qualified for unemployment benefits, say political observers in the state.

Eligibility is applied on a relatively narrow basis in Florida, proponents say. An estimated 8.3% of unemployed Floridians were receiving benefits prior to the pandemic, according to the National Employment Law Project. The average unemployment benefit in Florida was $ 230 per week as of September 2021, according to the Department of Labor. That compares to the US average of $ 348. At the high end, states like Massachusetts pay nearly $ 500 a week.

In Kansas, Democratic governor Laura Kelly sided with a largely conservative legislature to exclude employees from vaccination orders for medical or religious reasons. The law provides a process through which the government can review claims of people who leave their job because of a vaccination order and provide for retrospective payment of benefits. Kansas law requires fees of up to $ 50,000 for large employers or $ 10,000 for smaller employers.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce protested the performance language in a special session before the Legislature, saying the state should expect up to $ 5.6 billion of its unemployment trust fund payout under current vaccination rates. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 55 percent of the state was fully vaccinated by December 7.

“Granting unemployment benefits, as recommended by the proposed law, could cause significant financial damage to the state [unemployment insurance] Trust funds, affect its solvency and lead to increased taxes for Kansas companies struggling to recover from the pandemic, “Alan Cobb, president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

The Kansas legislature moved forward despite the Chamber’s objection, and the measure went into effect late last month.

Some other states are considering similar measures. A Wyoming House bill that focused on benefits for employees who abandoned their employers due to federal vaccine guidelines was up for discussion in a special session last week, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. A similar move was proposed by the Wisconsin Republicans before the Democratic governor vetoed it, according to the Wisconsin auditor.

Missouri Chamber of Commerce president Dan Mehan said he expected the issue of unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated to be proposed in the next legislature and is preparing to address it. “We don’t want unnecessary costs to come into play,” said Mehan.

Business groups in other states are likely to oppose similar measures, Mehan said. “Some states will face this threat. They will likely be redder conditions. Some states won’t, and they will likely be bluer states, ”Mehan said. “Usually this threat doesn’t come from the Republican side.”

The acceptance of these benefits by Republicans can be explained by how they rate the “earning capacity” of applicants, said Matt Bruenig of the left-wing People’s Policy Project.

“It has to do with who you envision getting the benefits. . . What kind of picture is it that is put in your head, ”said Bruenig.

“[Conservative lawmakers] In normal times, think: ‘Well, the people who get these benefits are losers or they don’t deserve it,’ ”said Bruenig. “If you can put your mind on a population they don’t think about, they’ll come up and say, ‘Oh, that makes sense.'”

Will Raderman, an unemployment benefit expert at the libertarian Niskanen Center who previously worked as a field organizer for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Says he believes state lawmakers and the federal government can provide benefits to a wider group of people People should expand individuals and not just the unvaccinated. Apart from that, he said, there was no point in denying services because of someone’s vaccination status.

“I don’t think their families should suffer when they have children because this breadwinner refuses to get vaccinated,” said Raderman. “To say [unvaccinated people] should also lose financial security between jobs, that seems pretty extreme to me. “


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