Report: Tennessee economy will lose $486 million due to Gov. Bill Lee’s cancelation of enhanced unemployment benefits

WASHINGTON — A new congressional report shows Tennessee’s economy will lose $486 million due to Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to cancel enhanced unemployment benefits for out-of-work Tennesseans.

The study, produced by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, says the enhanced unemployment insurance has played a key role in the economic recovery by stabilizing consumption and ensuring workers have their basic needs met (e.g. rent, food, medications) while they continue their job hunt to find work that matches their skills, experience and family demands.

“By ending these programs early, states are refusing billions of already appropriated federal dollars that could be spent in local groceries, restaurants and retail shops,” the report says. “Cutting benefits early in order to push people into jobs that don’t work for them (e.g. pay too little, endanger their health, are not geographically proximate, etc.) risks reducing demand in local economies, foregoing the potential for future better earnings, and ultimately constricting the economic recovery from the coronavirus recession.”

The study makes clear that Gov. Lee’s decision will hurt both families, where people lost a job through no fault of their own, and local businesses that could lose paying customers.

Gov. Lee announced in May that he would block federal pandemic unemployment assistance, which enhanced state unemployment insurance programs for eligible Americans by $300 a week.

Meanwhile, his administration is pushing $44.6 million worth of new federal assistance to Tennessee business owners.Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) called Lee’s slight against out-of-work Tennesseans an “immoral double standard.”

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