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More than 220,000 Mississippians filed for unemployment in eight weeks

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Monday marked two months since the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed the state’s first case of COVID-19.

In the weeks since that first Mississippian tested positive, nearly 222,000 people have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits in the state, or about 17.5% of the state’s civilian labor force.

Week ending New claims
3/14/2020 1,147
3/21/2020 5,519
3/28/2020 32,015
4/4/2020 45,852
4/11/2020 45,748
4/18/2020 36,913
4/25/2020 29,906
5/2/2020 24,810
Total 221,910

The question for many is how many of the businesses shuttered under the state’s shelter-in-place order will return, and if they do, how will business models change to guard against another shock like COVID-19. Experts are already pointing to a resurgence of the virus in the fall.

The good news is that the numbers of new claims have been declining in the state for the last three weeks, although continued or repeat claims remain high, well over 135,000 last week. Hopes are high as well that as more businesses reopen in the state after the COVID-19 lockdowns, employment will return to the robust levels seen at the beginning of the year.

Mississippi’s unemployment figures are echoed across the nation, with the country’s unemployment rate at 14.7% for April.

It’s a rate not seen since the U.S. started tracking the unemployment rate in 1939 toward the end of the Great Depression. It’s also a rate that has never climbed so high, so fast. Roughly 23.1 million Americans are unemployed across all industry sectors, although particularly heavy job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality.

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau recently cut its budget by 30% due to the expected drop in revenue in the city’s tourism industry. The City of Vicksburg expects a drop of nearly 11% of its revenues this fiscal year, causing layoffs and furloughs of city employees.

In the last month alone, the economy shed more than 20 million jobs, more than twice as many jobs lost during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Those job losses, about 8.8 million, happened gradually over nearly two years.

That event also took years to recover from. A decade later, the economy had added back 22 million jobs, but the current crisis has reversed all that progress and more in a couple of months.

Many states, including Mississippi, have begun to reopen businesses closed because of the COVID-19 crisis despite warnings that reopening too soon could cause a resurgence of the virus and many more deaths. Governors like Tate Reeves say the current lockdowns are simply unsustainable and that people need to work.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security has struggled to keep up with the numbers of new claims and has added hundreds of people to its payroll to manage the flood. Applicants report hours on hold for assistance and long delays to receive benefits.

On Friday, the state Senate held a hearing to determine what the problems are in the state’s unemployment system and how to resolve them.

Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he was extending the waiver for a waiting period for benefits until the end of the year. The extension came with a warning.

“You must understand that if you are currently unemployed and if your employer calls you back to work, I strongly recommend you go back to work,” Reeves said, adding, “Under state law, if you were to choose not to go back to work you could become ineligible.”

The governor reminded Mississippians that the additional $600 a week under the current federal pandemic unemployment assistance program goes away in July, and the average state unemployment benefit will return to around $200 per week.

“You may say, ‘OK, I’ll figure it out in July,’” he said. “The fact is, this economic disaster that is unfolding right now is real.”

Reeves warned that, when businesses reopen, if they can’t find their workforce, “it’s very possible that the business is not going to make it,” he said. “If you decide to wait until June, July or August, the job that you’re accustomed to may not be there.”

“I implore every Mississippian that as these small businesses reopen, take advantage of the opportunity to back to work,” he said.

 

COVID-19

Reeves puts another 13 counties under mask mandates

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Gov. Tate Reeves during April 22 news conference. (Photo via video screen grab)

Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced 13 additional counties that have qualified and met certain requirements to be placed under mask mandates with his “Safe Recovery” executive order that is in effect until Dec. 11.

Those additional counties are: Adams, Amite, Coahoma, Franklin, Jefferson, Kemper, Monroe, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Quitman, Scott, Sunflower and Washington. A total of 54 of Mississippi’s 82 counties are now under mask mandates.

“I hope that people believe me when I say this is a time when the virus is extremely present,” Reeves said during a news conference streamed live on Facebook. “It is all around us right now, more than almost any time before. Please continue to be careful and safeguard yourself and your loved ones.”

A copy of the Executive Order can be found here.

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Crime

Handgun stolen in auto burglary

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A handgun was stolen in an auto burglary Monday in Vicksburg.

Monday, Nov. 30, at 10:34 a.m. officers took a report in reference to an auto burglary that occurred at 3133 Washington St.

The victim reported someone stole a SCCY 9-mm handgun from his 2000 GMC Sierra.

If you have any information about this incident, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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Crime

Shooting suspect turns herself in

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Devona Jackson (photo courtesy VPD)

The suspect in a Nov. 25 shooting turned herself in to Vicksburg police investigators Monday.

Devona Jackson, 36, of Vicksburg, was charged with one count of shooting into an unoccupied vehicle in connection with an altercation at the Smoke Break convenience store, 1217 Cherry St., on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Jackson was arraigned in the Vicksburg Municipal Court, where Judge Angela Carpenter set her bond at $15,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

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