Tennessee Gov. Lee defends decision to end federal unemployment aid for jobless residents

Congressional committee estimates $486 million cost to the state by ending program early

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks with reporters Tuesday, June 8, following an event at wholesale restaurant food supplier Sysco Nashville. (Photo by Andy Sher/Chattanooga Times Free Press.)

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday defended his decision to end federal unemployment benefits early for thousands of jobless workers after a congressional report warned that the economic impact on local economies in Tennessee could reach $486 million.

Asked about the estimates and concerns cited in the report, issued by Congress' Joint Economic Committee, the governor stood by his decision to accelerate the expiration for state participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program and its $300 weekly benefit for jobless workers.

When the program ends July 3 in Tennessee, it will also cut off contract and gig workers who have multiple clients and don't qualify for traditional unemployment.

"While the state might lose economic dollars associated with that benefit, the businesses across this state are losing massive numbers of economic activity," Lee told reporters.