Some states are making it easier for Americans to collect unemployment benefits if they are fired because they were not immunized against Covid-19. In recent weeks, the governors of Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee signed bills changing the eligibility rules for unemployment benefits. Workers in these states who are laid off because they refused to comply with a workplace Covid-19 vaccine jobs mandate are now eligible for benefits.
According to labor experts, this goes against typical state rules, which generally disallow aid if workers are fired for failing to adhere to certain workplace policies, such as vaccine requirements or mandatory drug tests. Three of the states (Florida, Iowa and Tennessee) are helmed by Republican governors jobs. Kansas’ governor is a Democrat.
According to a National Conference of State Legislatures database, Republican lawmakers in other statehouses, including Arkansas, New York, and Wisconsin, have introduced similar bills since September.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other ones do it, especially when the legislatures get back in session ” according to Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. The move comes as many U.S. employers are weighing a workplace vaccine mandate and as fears over the omicron virus variant grow.
According to a survey released Tuesday by the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, approximately 57 percent of large businesses require or plan to require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees. However, more than half of those will only proceed if a Biden administration vaccine rule is implemented.
Businesses with at least 100 employees are required by the Biden administration rule to ensure that their employees are vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test on a weekly basis. After a federal appeals court ordered a pause pending review, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration jobs suspended enforcement and implementation of the measure. The regulation was meant to take effect on Jan. 4. President Joe Biden asked businesses on Thursday to freely proceed with the requirements.
“Simply put, delaying the standard would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects and tremendous expenses,” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “That is a confluence of harms of the highest order.”
Some Republican officials who want to repeal the policy argue that it violates personal liberties. According to Alexa Tapia, the National Employment Law Project’s unemployment insurance campaign coordinator, the policy appears to contradict states’ actions regarding unemployment benefits over the summer.
Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee were among the 26 states that moved to terminate federal unemployment benefits a few months before their official Labor Day expiration date. They claimed that by providing an incentive for recipients not to look for work, the benefits were contributing to a labor shortage.
According to Tapia, the new unemployment laws send the opposite message by providing a financial incentive to people who lose their jobs due to a vaccine requirement.