Tupelo Daily Journal. May 12, 2021.
Editorial: Don’t just cut benefits, provide incentives for workers
Gov. Tate Reeves is right: We have to get people back to work, or businesses and our overall economy will continue to suffer.
To address the growing problem of employers unable to fill jobs, Reeves said Mississippi will cease to be part of the enhanced federal unemployment payments as of June 12. This move will end the weekly $300 federal unemployment supplement going to unemployed workers on top of the state payments.
While this approach is becoming increasingly popular with other states, it is not the wisest path forward. Instead, Mississippi should follow the Montana model, which was announced last week.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a staunch conservative, declared his state would cease participation in the federal unemployment assistance plan, too. However, Gianforte and Montana are not just yanking the rug out from under unemployed workers. They are providing $1,200 incentives for people who were on unemployment as of May 4 and who get a job and keep it for 30 days.
This model not only helps push people toward the job market, it provides them with further assistance — equal to four weeks of the federal unemployment payments. Montana prevents people from collecting the incentive more than once, and anyone re-entering the unemployment pool would not qualify for the additional federal assistance since the state is ending its participation in the program.
The Montana plan addresses some realistic concerns. First, despite a large number of job openings, it might take some people beyond the cutoff date to get a job. The $1,200 incentive would ease any hardships caused by this.
The other real consideration is that people are making more with the enhanced unemployment funds than they are working. In Mississippi, people can make up to $535 per week, the equivalent of $13.75 per hour or $28,600 annually. Many workers in Mississippi make much less than that. For many, the decision not to work is not about milking the system but about not having to choose between buying groceries or paying rent. Montana recognizes this, and they are hoping the $1,200 incentive will help make that transition easier.
There is no doubt that we need to get people back to work, but we also should not pretend that there are no lasting economic effects from the pandemic. And we should recognize that many working Mississippians can legitimately use that incentive for necessities.
Reeves can help both businesses and workers with only a minor change to his plan. He should follow the lead of his fellow Republican in Montana to do so.
(Columbus) The Dispatch. May 13, 2021.
Editorial: Local violent crime surge reflects nationwide uptick
Thursday morning, Columbus officials scheduled a press conference to discuss the recent crime and shooting incidents in the city. Representatives of the Columbus Police Department, the mayor’s office, the Police Oversight Committee and the Citizen Task Force on Crime to discuss the issue and, presumably, what steps are being taken in an effort to address the problem.
Similar public meetings have been held in Starkville, where there has been a rash of high profile fatal shootings, including one on Easter Sunday, one in McKee Park April 20 and two on Pilcher Street on March 3.
Both Columbus and Starkville have implemented new policies. Columbus has plans to share crime information with residents; Starkville is considering a juvenile curfew.
In both cities, residents are on edge and looking for answers.
Obviously, officials are right to focus on this recent increase in violence, just as residents are rightfully disturbed by it.
Even so, we urge citizens to be cautious in their conclusions about what this recent increase in crime says about our police, city officials and neighborhoods. It’s worth noting that what is happening in Columbus and Starkville appears to be happening everywhere.
In fact, violent crime has increased, both throughout Mississippi and the nation.
A report released by the National Commission on COVD-19 and Criminal Justice in January found nationwide homicides increased by 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. This uptick follows many years of a downward trend in homicides; the current homicide rate is still far lower than it was in 1995. Domestic violence was up, as might be suspected, but robberies declined by 9 percent. Property and drug crimes fell significantly.
In light of that data, the current violent crime trend is more accurately described as a continuation of the increases seen in 2020, and it seems to be continuing.
According to a New York Times report, the U.S. homicide rate was up by 18 percent during the first three months of 2021 when compared to the same period of 2020.
Of course, what is true generally is not always true specifically and when violent crimes happen within a short period, the perception changes, which is understandable.
The idea that violent crime is up everywhere doesn’t do much to calm fears here in our community, we realize. Nor should it diminish efforts to understand and address the problems locally.
But understanding that what we’re seeing locally is a continuation of a broader national trend provides important context in that it may help focus the discussion and, perhaps, reduce the urge to scapegoat local law enforcement or city leaders.
We all should take this recent surge in violence seriously and should work toward solutions.
But it’s also important to recognize the scope of the problem.
(McComb) Enterprise-Journal. May 14, 2021.
Editorial: Think big and think long-term
Delbert Hosemann is urging city and county government officials all around Mississippi to not only think big but also to think long-term.
They need to listen to the lieutenant governor as they ponder what to do with nearly $1 billion that collectively will fall in their laps since Congress, at the prodding of President Joe Biden, enacted the federal government’s latest round of coronavirus relief.
A case can be made that $1.9 trillion — on top of the nearly $4 trillion Congress had previously allocated to deal with the health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic — was excessive. But assuming Mississippi has no intention of giving the money back, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 has given this state and most of its counties and municipalities the rare opportunity to have enough money to address some serious, longstanding infrastructure problems.
Hosemann, in his first term presiding over the state Senate after spending 12 solid years as secretary of state, has been making the rounds to pitch in general outlines what he thinks cities and counties should do with the relief money.
He wants them to partner with state government to repair or replace their water and sewer systems or other critical infrastructure that the federal legislation allows.
When you think of critical infrastructure, road and bridge projects come foremost to mind, but those aren’t included in this round of help. Don’t fret, though. That’s probably coming, too, as Congress debates a transportation bill that is expected to be somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.
For now, the focus is on water, sewer and possibly high-speed internet. There’s plenty of need for all of those. Many communities deal with crumbling pipes or lead-based ones that are a health hazard. Jackson, the state’s capital city, alone could use a billion dollars to shore up its collapsing water system. As for broadband access, while much progress has been made recently to expand what has become a critical modern-day utility, there are still huge rural areas of this state where internet service is spotty.
Hosemann proposes a collaboration of local governments and the Legislature to make the most out of the $2.7 billion they are getting between them. If local governments are willing to submit their plans for spending their stimulus money to the Legislature for consideration, the state would be willing to match it by as much as 2-to-1, Hosemann suggested.
It’s a superb idea. The American Rescue Plan should be seen as a windfall. The way to not squander a windfall is to spend it on long-term needs, not short-term ones, and to concentrate the money on a few major projects, not a bunch of little ones.
Hosemann says he has been getting a good response around the state to the pitch he has been making. He should be. He has reason on his side and he’s dangling a big carrot. If local governments can triple how much money they have for an infrastructure project just by sticking with the Legislature’s overall vision of what the priorities should be, they would wise to get on board.