Breaking: MO JWJ Launches Lawsuit to Restore Benefits to 150,000 Missouri Families

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Today, Missouri Jobs with Justice launched a lawsuit seeking to return the promised federal financial support to support the hundreds of thousands of Missouri families who are not yet able to safely return to work.

“As Missouri Jobs with Justice,we believe in an economy and democracy that works for all workers,” said Caitlyn Adams, Executive Director with Missouri Jobs with Justice. “Unfortunately, since the Governor blocked assistance from workers, our democracy has been on the side of corporations and not Missouri families. The Governor’s action directly violated Missouri law, which requires the state to cooperate with the federal government to maximize support for struggling families. Today, we seek to restore the benefits that were unjustly taken from families and to fight for an economy where all Missouri families are valued and supported.” 

“You will never be more frugal or better at budgeting than when the economy pulls the rug out from under you and you’re without a job. While I knew unemployment was nowhere near enough, knowing we had that little bit coming in for a few months was breathing room. Governor Parson blocked my unemployment benefits. Without this support coming in, we are constantly on the verge of having the gas or electricity turned off or worse,” said Elicia Culton of Florissant who is a small business owner and herself, her husband, and teenage son are all high-risk for COVID-19 infection.

Missourians were told by Governor Parson and his Chamber donors that decimating this safety net would force Missourians back to work. However, evidence suggests that states that have offered workers support have seen faster job growth than those who blocked assistance

Missourians are ready to get back to work.

“I spent more than twenty years growing my photography business. It’s my passion and I love doing it. But with the pandemic, that’s not an option,” said Theresa Barnes. “With Governor Parson blocking unemployment benefits, I find myself constantly weighing low-wage jobs against my family’s health and the real possibility we may be homeless soon.”

Evidence shows that workers are ready to get back to work in jobs that provide family-sustaining wages, health care, predictable schedules, and paid time off that allows them to balance the caregiving responsibilities many still have. Attempting to starve Missourians into accepting low-wage, no-benefit jobs and risking their family’s health is not the answer. 

“Our economic recovery is nuanced, and many Missourians haven’t been able to return to work because they still have children home from school, jobs aren’t available in their areas, or they are caring for loved ones who are at greater risk of developing severe reactions if exposed to COVID. The resurgence of COVID cases resulting from the Delta variant is further evidence Missouri’s decision to end federal unemployment assistance was ill-timed,” said Amy Blouin, president and CEO of the Missouri Budget Project

“Missourians deserve the same protections that families have in other states. Keeping those federal unemployment benefits available can help ensure our families can make ends meet and will support local businesses by bolstering the amount of income that is circulating in local economies. At a time when Missouri’s economic conditions remain fragile, this just makes sense,” Blouin continued.

“Both my husband and I are considered high-risk due to our health conditions. When the pandemic hit, my doctor told me I should not be in public – and that’s only gotten more serious with the Delta variant,” said Kelly Kleffner. “The unemployment benefits have helped, but it was nowhere near the amount of our usual paychecks. I’m waiting for it to be safe to go back to work. I want to go back to work, but this is scary. We planned on this unemployment income through September – and now I’m not sure what we will do.”

Given the success of lawsuits in Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Maryland, we look forward to Missouri getting back on the right track and supporting its citizens through times of crisis – rather than scoring points with its corporate donors.

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Missouri Jobs with Justice is a statewide grassroots coalition working to build an economy and democracy that works for all of us – no matter what. 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