Missourians head to court to restore unemployment benefits, recoup lost wages

Mounting evidence points to failure of Governor’s policies on unemployment

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Tens of thousands of Missourians will be anxiously watching the Cole County courthouse today, as Missouri Jobs with Justice faces off against Governor Parson over his unilateral decision to block millions of dollars of federal assistance from desperate Missouri families. The case stems from his decision to terminate federal unemployment assistance on June 12th, well before the benefits were set to expire on September 6th. Jobs with Justice hopes to restart the program and will seek retroactive payments for families whose situations have grown desperate since the assistance was blocked. 

 

Back in May when the Governor announced the cuts, he claimed it would spur economic growth in the state. But evidence since then demonstrates it has done the exact opposite. States that maintained the federal payments have seen the fastest job growth in the country, while Missouri has lagged behind both regionally and nationally. “This was never about getting people back to work,” said Caitlyn Adams, Executive Director of Missouri Jobs with Justice. “This was about giving corporations more power and to force workers to work for low wages. The Governor hoped that by making Missourians desperate, they would return to low wage and unsafe working conditions. This unconscionable decision has caused irreparable harm for thousands of families – harm we seek to mitigate today.” 

 

Missouri Jobs with Justice brought the suit after being contacted by representatives of a self-organized network of hundreds of Missourians who have been struggling with the ramifications of his decision. “We are hopeful that we will achieve justice today, but this day never should have come. Governor Parson never should have made this decision,” said Maya Mae, an organizer of the network of Missourians. “I was already struggling with the loss of income due to COVID. To have had those struggles compounded by someone who is supposed to look out for me, someone who is supposed to care for me, it was just infuriating. How out of touch can he be?”

 

The harm caused to Missouri likely is not limited to the tens of thousands of families directly impacted. The Governor’s actions blocked an estimated $770 million dollars from reaching Missouri families, money that would have been spent in Missouri. “The loss of economic activity due to this decision cannot be overstated,” said Amy Blouin, President and CEO of the Missouri Budget Project. “It is not surprising that the states that are seeing the largest job growth are the states that stayed focused on battling COVID and continued to provide financial support to their workers. Safety nets help not just families, but entire economies because they keep economic activity going.” 

 

While Missourians anxiously await the decision of the court, there is another option available to them. Faced with the evidence of the harm the decision has caused, Governor Parson could voluntarily admit his mistake, reverse his decision, and seek to repair the damage he has done. “As someone who voted for Mike Parson, I expect him to do the right thing,” said Jennifer Wilson of Springfield. “People can make mistakes, but leaders learn from their mistakes and make efforts to fix them. We shouldn’t need a judge, we need a compassionate Governor.”

 

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Missouri Jobs with Justice is a statewide grassroots coalition of individuals and faith, labor, student, and community groups building transformative power for social, racial, and economic justice. Our individual and organizational members come together to hold decision-makers accountable and to build a Missouri where opportunity exists for all regardless of race, identity, income, or immigration status. Follow our work at https://www.facebook.com/MissouriJobsWithJustice/ or www.mojwj.org