Alabama to reject $300 extra federal unemployment benefit next month

Published 9:39 pm Monday, May 10, 2021

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that Alabama will be the latest state to halt pandemic-related unemployment boosts, including the additional $300 benefit from the federal government.

Ivey cited an increase in job postings and complaints from businesses that they are unable to hire workers. She said she believes the increased unemployment assistance intended to bring emergency relief during the pandemic is now contributing to a labor shortage. That view is echoed by conservative groups but disputed by some advocates for low-income families.

“As Alabama’s economy continues its recovery, we are hearing from more and more business owners and employers that it is increasingly difficult to find workers to fill available jobs, even though job openings are abundant,” Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey said Alabama will end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs effective June 19 including: the additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation; benefits to gig and part-time workers who would not usually qualify; and an emergency extension of benefits.

Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina are also planning to stop accepting the $300 benefit.

The Alabama Department of Labor has also reinstated a job search requirement for people claiming unemployment benefits.

“We have more posted job ads now than we did in either February or March 2020,” Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a statement.

Dev Wakeley, a policy analyst for Alabama Arise, an advocacy group for low-income families, said Alabama’s decision is “unfortunately not surprising.”

“It’s a continuation of long-term hostility at the state level to working Alabamians,” Wakeley said.

Wakelely said it’s a “fundamentally false belief” that a person collecting benefits, is “just trying to get one over on the system.”

Wakeley said Alabama has a history of embracing policies that benefit companies but not workers. Alabama has no minimum wage beyond the federal hourly minimum of $7.25 and is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid programs to cover working poor adults. Wakelely noted state lawmakers approved liability protections for businesses to make it harder to sue for COVID-related claims.