Here are all the states providing unemployment benefits for people who quit or were fired because they refused to get vaccinated

·3 min read
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee are rewriting laws to expand benefits to unvaccinated people.

  • Mostly GOP-led states are resisting vaccine mandates, now in the form of expanding jobless aid.

  • Some of the same states were first to cut expanded unemployment aid amid the labor shortage.

Some states are starting to provide unemployment benefits to people quitting or getting fired because they're refusing to get vaccinated.

It's a reversal of a trend from just months ago, when a series of majority GOP-led states opted out of federal unemployment benefits prematurely. In many cases, that halted benefits completely for gig workers, freelancers, and long-term unemployed people who were newly eligible.

Now, some GOP-led states are spearheading resistance to vaccine mandates and passing legislation to ban them. Here's a rundown of those changes with a focus on jobless aid.

Iowa

Kim Reynolds Iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa.Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Iowa was one of the first GOP-led states to end enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits for workers in the summer. The $300 in additional weekly checks — along with programs that made freelancers and long-term unemployed people eligible for benefits — came to a close on June 12.

But while Iowa freelancers and gig workers have been unable to collect benefits for months, unvaccinated workers are now eligible. On October 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that said someone "who is discharged from employment for refusing to receive a vaccination against COVID-19" wouldn't be "disqualified for benefits" because of how they were discharged.

The legislation "gives employees the assurance that they will still receive unemployment benefits despite being fired for standing up for their beliefs," Reynolds said in a statement. She added that while she believed the vaccine was the "best defense" against COVID-19, "no Iowan should be forced to lose their job or livelihood over the COVID-19 vaccine."

Florida

Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida approved a bill on November 19 extending unemployment aid to unvaccinated people as part of a legislative package that banned vaccine mandates.

"Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a recent statement.

The state was among those that yanked federal unemployment benefits before their expiration to prod people to find new jobs.

The expansion of jobless aid to unvaccinated people has generated criticism among Florida Democrats. State Rep. Anna Eskamani called it "a joke" in an interview with the Florida Phoenix, a local newspaper.

Tennessee

In this Wednesday, July 1, 2020 file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions during a news conference in Nashville, Tenn.
Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee.AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill banning government bodies, private businesses, and schools from requiring a COVID-19 shot or asking for proof of vaccination.

Part of the bill also expanded jobless aid to people who lost their jobs over vaccine mandates and authorized retroactive payments for those eligible.

Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law earlier this month, seeking to reverse what he called an "overreach" from the federal government as it moved to mandate vaccinations in the private sector.

Kansas

Laura Kelly.
Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas.John Hanna/AP

On November 23, Kansas lawmakers successfully passed a measure that ensured people who were fired over remaining unvaccinated would still receive benefits.

Workers "would not become ineligible for benefits or be disqualified from receiving benefits" if they "declined to accept work that requires compliance with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement" or had an exemption request denied.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. She opted not to end enhanced benefits early in the state over the summer.

"I know there are Kansans who believe this legislation goes too far, and there are others who believe this legislation doesn't go far enough," Kelly said in a statement. "But I was elected to lead, and leadership means seeking compromise."

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