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Unemployment numbers continue to surge
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Tyrone Keoton Jr., is handed an unemployment benefit application.
AP Images

More than 63,000 people are unemployed in Mississippi and the governor says it’s time to do something about it. As the number of coronavirus infections continue to increase, state officials are looking at how to softly re-open the economy but still keep residents safe. MPB’s Ashley Norwood reports.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security paid out 72 million dollars last week in unemployment benefits. Majority of those dollars went to workers impacted by the coronavirus. Prior to the pandemic, the department averaged about 1 million dollars a week.

Jackie Turner is director of the state department of employment security.

“We will do our dead level best to do whatever we can to help people draw the benefits that they are entitled to. We have added and continue to add phone lines if necessary. I still say the best way to file is self service online,” says Turner.

Speaking at the governor’s press conference Tuesday, Turner says pandemic unemployment benefits are now available to people who are self-employed or are gig workers, independent contractors or employees of charities and faith-based organizations.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves says the state economy will reopen gradually after health officials say it's safe to do so. He says the response plan could include strategies like reopening different regions of the state at different times.

“Understand that this is not going to be a light switch that we can turn on and off. Our reopening strategy will be continuous. But understand, we have to do something. Because for some, during this time the wait has been somewhat comfortable. But for others this is deeply deeply painful,” says Reeves.

Governor Reeves says the predicted surge in coronavirus cases appears to be much lower than expected but the threat is not gone. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.