One Reason Some Governors Want to Reopen So Quickly

Follow the money (boldface mine):

Republican governors in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina have announced plans to begin reopening their states’ economies despite warnings by health officials that it’s too early to do so. The decisions mean that businesses may soon start calling people back into work before they feel safe, creating a coronavirus-specific dilemma: If people in those states are offered their jobs back, but refuse to take them out of fear for their safety, they will likely no longer qualify for unemployment benefits—even though they’re taking the same precautions as people one state over.

The Department of Labor’s website explicitly states that “voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible for [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance].” A Department of Labor spokesperson confirmed to VICE that employees cannot continue to collect pandemic unemployment insurance if they refuse to “return to work out of general safety concerns.” They also noted that “when an individual is no longer eligible for PUA, they are also no longer eligible for the additional $600 in benefits.”

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, Congress has temporarily expanded who is able to access unemployment benefits. Under normal circumstances, Americans lose their unemployment insurance in most states if they are offered work but don’t take it. But under the CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides benefits access to groups including those who are diagnosed with or live with someone who has COVID-19, those who have come into direct contact with someone who tested positive and are told by a doctor to self-quarantine, and those with compromised immune systems.

Given Republicans’ wanton disregard for worker safety over the last forty years, there is no reason to think, until proven otherwise, that a major consideration in reopening states is budgetary–when they reopen, their unemployment rolls will decrease. Horrible.

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