Unemployment Benefits Extended to Vaccine Mandate Job Losses in These 5 States

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Typically, workers who quit their jobs or get fired for cause in many states are ineligible to receive state unemployment benefits. But five states have determined that if employees lose their jobs for failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, they can still file for unemployment.

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Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee now allow employees who have been fired for failure to follow any company vaccine mandates to collect unemployment insurance. The decision in these states is highly controversial, as many GOP legislators fought to end extended unemployment benefits in their states in the midst of the pandemic, in hopes that it would help alleviate the labor shortage. Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee and Florida all cut federal extended unemployment benefits in June.

Some critics of the new policy say it is a bid to “politicize” the pandemic. “These governors, who are using the unemployment insurance system in a moment of political theater to make a statement about the vaccine mandate, are the same folks who turned off unemployment benefits early for millions of workers over the summer,” Rebecca Dixon, the executive director of the National Employment Law Project, told the Washington Post.

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Additionally, many business owners oppose the policy, as they would rather have a protected workforce and, at the same time, don’t want to shoulder the UI costs for employees they fired, wrote MSNBC’s Steve Benen.

Republicans who support the policy view it as giving individuals freedom to make their own medical decisions. Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson said in a tweet, “Kansans have made it clear that they choose freedom over Faucism,” seemingly comparing Dr. Anthony S. Fauci’s masking and vaccine recommendations to fascism through a play on the President Biden’s chief medical advisor’s name.

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As of late October 2021, about 25% of workers polled said their employer mandated vaccines. This number rose from just 9% in June, but was prior to Biden’s mandates for vaccines for healthcare workers and people in businesses with 100 or more employees. Only 1% of working adults, in June, said they left a job due to a vaccine requirement, according to KFF.org. Whether or not that will change if people know unemployment is an option in certain states remains to be seen.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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