NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some state lawmakers say Governor Bill Lee’s recent decision to refuse federal pandemic unemployment programs will disproportionately affect rural communities.
Gov. Lee recently announced all federally-funded pandemic unemployment benefit programs will expire July 3, including an additional $300 weekly payment for people receiving unemployment.
The governor says it’s to help push people to return to work, touting 250 thousand plus jobs on the state job board site.
FOX 17 News did a quick search for jobs in Perry County, which has the highest unemployment rate in Middle Tennessee.
There’s just 26 jobs listed for that area, while state data shows about 223 people are unemployed. Half of the jobs listed require a special certification, like a commercial truck driving license, or a nursing degree.
Others jobs are part time, and some were posted more than three months ago.
“Inevitably this hurts rural communities so much more than it hurts our cities,” Senator Heidi Campbell said.
Sen. Campbell says the jobs in rural areas are harder to come by than in metro areas, and jobs that are available may not pay enough to support families.
“What’s a working parent supposed to do when the only jobs available have no health care and no paid leave, what if the job doesn’t pay enough to cover child care?” She said.
We reached out to Representative Kirk Haston who represents Perry County to find out what’s being done to help his community.
He sent a statement, saying:
"The broadband grants have gone a long way in connecting our rural county to the workforce, which is even more important now that so many businesses have seen how work from home can be a very viable option. The MLEC ML Connect initiative has successfully speaks rural broadband in Perry Co and should within a 4-year period have the entire county connected to high speed internet.”
“I was proud to pass HB 745 which will offer (free to our TN seniors) the ability to take the ACT WorkKeys career readiness exam which can lead to earning a National career Readiness Certificate which more than 800 companies in TN utilize and recognize in the hiring of new employees. This means we can directly connect thousands of students with hundreds of companies."
"It of course important to prepare our students for their next class or next test but it’s most important to prepare them for their first career."