Tennessee families plea with Governor Lee to reverse decision to end federal unemployment benefits early

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Some Tennessee families are pleading with Governor Bill Lee to reverse his decision to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits.

The additional $300 in federal unemployment benefits was extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic; it is going away on September 6.

“With the unemployment ending, I honestly don’t know what my children and I are going to do,” Suzi Webb from Milan said.

But it’s Lee’s decision to end the federal pandemic unemployment early on July 3 that has families speaking out, including Joshua Hubbard from the Tri-Cities area. He and his wife were pulled from the workforce by doctors. His wife has multiple myeloma, which is cancer of the immune system.

“Governor Lee has put us in a position to where I have either got to scrape by and hope for the generosity of others or risk putting my wife and myself’s life in danger,” Hubbard said.

Lee did not answer if he has spoken directly to individuals relying on the extra benefits, but said, “There are I believe 25 out of the 50 states across the country that have made this move because I think increasingly states are seeing that in order for our economy to move forward, we need to move this direction,” Lee said.

“Governor Bill Lee, I’m asking you and I’m pleading with you, can you reverse your decision?” Alex Longstreet from Memphis said.

But a last-minute attempt to convince the governor could fall on deaf ears.

“The fact is when you all get this money from the federal government, you’re going to be paying it back in utilities, your rent and buying groceries,” Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville said.

Further, Johnson says child care is a major reason why people are unable to reenter the workforce.

“The state needs to look for one thing, our child care infrastructure and make sure we’re doing everything we can. Why not use some of these recovery funds or rescue funds to build childcare infrastructure?”

Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development says there are approximately 84,000 people in Tennessee currently receiving benefits from the additional federal payments.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is just below five percent.

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