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BPAA State Policy Update - May 21, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


COVID Unemployment


  • Gov. Greg Abbott opts out of the federal unemployment program Jobless Texans will soon lose access to all additional federal unemployment aid — including a $300-per-week supplemental benefit — that was extended as a result of the pandemic after Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said Texas will opt out of the federal assistance.
    • Following pressure from business groups, Abbott is withdrawing from the program that allowed Texans to receive a weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. Abbott also cut off another lifeline called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which extended jobless aid to gig workers, self-employed people and others who aren’t traditionally covered by unemployment insurance, the Texas Workforce Commission said. Congress extended those programs through September, but Abbott said they will end for Texans on June 26. Read more at Texas Tribune.


  • Alabama to end use of all federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office is moving to end the state’s participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs, citing businesses that are struggling to find employees to fill a number of available positions. Read more here.


  • Texas, Indiana and Oklahoma join states cutting off pandemic unemployment benefits. TexasIndiana and Oklahoma this week joined the growing number of states that are withdrawing from federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits. Supported by Republican governors and lawmakers as well as national and state chambers of commerce, the decision will eliminate the temporary $300-a-week supplement that unemployment recipients have been getting and will end benefits for freelancers, part-timers and those who have been unemployed for more than six months. Read more at the NYT.


  • Reeves to end $300 unemployment stipend after Gunn calls for crack down Gov. Tate Reeves said Mississippi in early June will opt out of a federal pandemic program that has been providing an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits to Mississippians since last year. Reeves’ announcement came just hours after fellow Republican, House Speaker Philip Gunn, called on Reeves to either start enforcing job-search requirements for unemployment benefits or end the federal stipend. Gunn said small businesses are reporting they cannot hire people because of the extra benefits, and that the state is not enforcing the rule that people search for work while receiving them. Read more at Mississippi Today.


  • These 21 states are ending $300 unemployment benefits this summer A growing number of GOP-led states are planning to end supplemental unemployment benefits designed to help out-of-work Americans weather the coronavirus pandemic, a move they say will help businesses struggling to hire employees.  At least 21 states decided over the past week to prematurely cut off the sweetened aid, which provided an extra $300 a week on top of regular state unemployment benefits. The supplemental benefit is not slated to expire until Sept. 6, 2021.
    • Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming announced they will stop giving unemployed workers an extra $300 in benefits sometime over the summer. Read more at Fox Business.


  • Gov. Bill Lee opts Tennessee out of $300 federal unemployment supplement, other programs Tennessee is withdrawing from a $300 weekly unemployment supplement program, a decision by Gov. Bill Lee that comes as many Republicans argue the additional funds allow low-wage workers to make more money while staying at home. Lee informed the U.S. Department of Labor of the decision Tuesday, joining several other Southern states in refusing the additional payments for unemployed people. Read more here.


  • SC Gov. McMaster orders DEW to pull out of federal COVID-19 unemployment program Gov. Henry McMaster is ordering the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce to withdraw from the federal government’s federal pandemic unemployment programs. Starting on June 30, the state will no longer participate in the expanded unemployment benefits put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.


  • Unemployment Benefits Become Target Amid Hiring Difficulty lackluster jobs report Friday added fuel to efforts in Florida and elsewhere to reduce access to unemployment benefits that some state and industry leaders say have kept people from returning to the workforce.
    • The country is in a striking predicament, with millions unemployed and businesses that can’t find enough people to hire at current wages. The mismatch has prompted several states, including Florida, Montana and North Carolina, to tighten reporting requirements to receive unemployment benefits and shut off payments to people who turn down work.
    • In some cases, states are ending access to federal pandemic unemployment payments. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for an immediate end to a $300-a-week federal jobless supplement. “The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,” said Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley. Read more at WSJ.


Budget Update


  • Illinois Goes It Alone (For Now) — A Lightfoot Interview — Paul Ryan Headlines For Kinzinger  With less than 10 days before the legislative session wraps up, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Comptroller Susana Mendoza and leaders of the General Assembly announced they are moving ahead with a budget that doesn’t rely on money from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay off the remaining $2 billion of a $3.2 billion borrowing bill.
    • The Democratic leaders who control state government say Illinois can find enough revenue from April and May to pay off the debt early and save an interest payment. The state was on pace to bring in nearly $1.5 billion more than expected in the current year and another $842 million in additional revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to the Tribune.
    • Read more at Politico.


  • Texas budget writers announce compromise on state’s spending plan Texas budget writers have come to an agreement on how they’ll spend taxpayer money over the next two years. In a series of hearings this week, members of the conference committee for Senate Bill 1 reviewed the decisions for the nearly $247 billion budget. The Senate passed its version 31-0, and the House voted 149-0 to approve its version. Read more on the plan here.


  • Session over, July 1 is new state budget deadline Minnesota lawmakers walked out of the state Capitol in broad daylight after the 2021 session came to an end. In most years, that alone would be a banner accomplishment. This year, it produced howls of protest. The objections stem from the fact that the Legislature didn’t complete a single budget bill by Monday’s deadline. It’s a point Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt dwelled on. Read more here.


  • House and Senate reach budget agreement, on pace for Friday adjournment Vermont lawmakers resolved a lingering disagreement over the state budget on Thursday, clearing a path for the Legislature to adjourn for the session on Friday.  As they sought to reconcile competing versions of the fiscal year 2022 budget, Senate and House negotiators had struggled to reach consensus over how to fund retired teacher health care obligations. Read more at VTDigger.


  • Minnesota legislative session fizzles to a close, tees up overtime and possible blowups on horizon Minnesota lawmakers closed out the 2021 legislative session this week with a tentative budget deal and a lot of work left to do before a June overtime session. More than four months into the session, legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives closed out their official work period without passing a single budget bill. And absent specifics, the "numbers-only" agreement left room for blowups as legislators pick up their unfinished business in working groups over the next few weeks. Read more here.


  • 2021 Iowa legislative session sees passage of many conservative priorities before adjournment The Iowa Legislature adjourned its 2021 session just before midnight Wednesday, closing out a consequential year that saw the passage of Republican priorities on voting, guns, police, education, abortion and tax cuts. The legislative session blew past its target end date of April 30 as lawmakers worked to reach a deal on a tax cut package that will shift mental health funding from property taxes to the state, speed up income tax cuts and end the state's inheritance tax. Read more at Des Moines Register.
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