Lee Continues Trend of Trampling on Working Class Tennesseans

Andy Spears
2 min readMay 12, 2021

In a state that has no official minimum wage and has repeatedly refused Medicaid expansion, Gov. Bill Lee announced yesterday that he is opting the state out of federal assistance to provide additional unemployment benefits to the thousands of Tennesseans who are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s more from Lee’s press release on the issue:

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” said Gov. Lee. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper responded expressing his disappointment in Lee’s decision:

“Why would Gov. Lee take $300 a week from unemployed Tennesseans? To force them to go back to work, even if they are sick, they have no child care, or there are no jobs for them?

“I voted to give Tennesseans this help during the pandemic, but Gov. Lee is taking it away. Is that how he would want to be treated? Is he obeying the Golden Rule? What would Jesus do?”

The American Rescue Plan Act included an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits for those currently out of work while we fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper voted for the bill, which was the second that included these benefits passed by Congress.

Lee has consistently opposed a state minimum wage, healthcare expansion, and paid family leave. Now, he’s standing in the way of meaningful financial recovery for Tennessee families still hurting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .