Governor Lee ‘inflating’ available job numbers, Democrats say

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee believes dropping federal unemployment benefits for Tennesseans was the right thing to do.

“The unemployment rate has plummeted, and we have a quarter million job openings in this state,” Gov. Lee said.

According to numbers on the Jobs4TN website, there are 250,000 job openings with an unemployment rate of 5 percent. Gov. Lee said those stats prove his approach to the unemployment crisis is working.

“We have significantly more employment opportunities then we do unemployed, and that’s why we made the decisions that we have,” Gov. Lee said.

“That number is inflated, that number is not an accurate number for what’s going on right now, over time there have been that amount of jobs available,” said Senator Raumesh Akbari.

Senator Akbari, a Memphis Democrat, said the numbers the governor is touting aren’t an accurate representation of reality. She said there’s a disconnect between the total number of available jobs, and the number of well-paying jobs that the average Tennessean would qualify for.

“Are they sufficient to cover the bills? The person has the cost of childcare, and transportation, and so many different factors. Are they qualified for those jobs?” Akbari asked.

Akbari said an easy solution is expanding Medicaid and reopening hospitals, a move which a recent Commonwealth Fund Study found would add over 40,000 jobs in the state.

“You’re creating 45,000 good paying jobs, you’re bringing more money into our economy, you’re saving money on the cost of healthcare,” Akbari said.

If Tennessee lawmakers voted to expand Medicaid, an unlikely outcome, the federal government would pay 95 percent of the cost under COVID-19 relief rules for the next two years.

“Because at the end of the day, we are one of those outlier states that has not expanded Medicaid and when we talk about employment and healthcare outcomes, this would be two birds with one stone,” Akbari said.

The extra $300 dollars in federal unemployment benefits will end July 3.

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