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Unemployed Mississippians will receive more benefits thanks to federal aid

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(Photo by Mingo Hagen via Flickr, CC by 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Mississippians unemployed due to the COVID-19 crisis will soon see an additional $600 per week in benefits, thanks to funds coming to the state from the federal government.

During his daily update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus on Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves said Mississippi is one of the first states to receive the federal aid, approved under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law last month.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security has been waiting on guidance from the federal government to pull the trigger on the additional funds, which will more than triple the maximum benefits distributed to unemployed people, from $235 to $835 per week. Mississippians may see the additional money as soon as next week or, perhaps, the week after that.

Another federal program expands unemployment benefits to independent contractors and those who were self-employed. Those groups are not normally eligible for benefits because they do not contribute to the unemployment funds in the state.

A third federal program lengthens the number of week unemployed people can receive benefits by 13 weeks. In Mississippi, benefits normally run for a maximum of 26 weeks, or about six months. With the additional weeks, benefits can be paid up to 39 weeks, or about nine months.

The program’s expansion under the federal guidelines comes at a time when MDES has already been slammed with new unemployment claims. Where the agency normally handles fewer than 1,000 claims a week, last week saw about 46,500 new claims. Even with 100 new employees and volunteers, claimants are complaining they are unable to get through on phone lines and are finding the website difficult.

“We see you. We hear you. And we are here to help you,” Reeves said during his Thursday update.

MDES is in the process of increasing its claims processing workforce from 50 to 250, he added. The call center hours are currently 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The governor urged everyone unable to get through to keep trying, and he reminded them that their benefits will be paid based on the date of their unemployment, not the date they are able to file for benefits.

MDES is also urging claimants to use its website to register and file claims and weekly updates. (Also see: “How to get your unemployment benefits if you’ve been affected by COVID-19“)

Since the beginning of the crisis in Mississippi last month, more than 87,000 people have filed for unemployment. Nationwide, more than 16.8 million have lost their jobs, an unprecedented number.

“One in 10 people in the United States has lost their job in the last three weeks,” Reeves said. “During the great recession, that happened over a year and a half.”

More than 37 million Americans lost their jobs during the great recession; however, the number of people filing first time claims in the past month is historic. The nation has never seen this many people lose their jobs all at the same time.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the nation was enjoying an unemployment rate of 3.5%. Economist expect that rate could be in the double digits for April.

Fire

Fire at Cato Fashions Saturday evening

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

Vicksburg firefighters were called to a fire at Cato Fashions, 2184 Iowa Blvd., Saturday around 6:30 p.m. near the Walmart Supercenter.

Firefighter checks the HVAC vents. (photo by Thomas Parker)

First reports say smoke could be seen coming from the vents, and firefighters are checking the HVAC system for problems. The situation seems well under control.

The store has been evacuated as are staff and customers in nearby stores. There are no reports of injuries.

Numerous Vicksburg fire and police units have responded including Engines 7 and 8, Ladder 15, Rescue, Fire Medic 80 and Battalion 1 (Tim Love).

The Vicksburg Daily News will provide updates as we receive them.

See our live, on-the-scene report on our Facebook page.

 

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Education

Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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Events

Happening now: Fundraising benefit for Keeley Ramshur

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Visitors look over auction items at the benefit. (photo by David Day)

A benefit for Keeley Ramshur is in full swing at the Elks Lodge Saturday.

Ramshur, daughter of Toni Buell Ramshur and Joey Ramshur, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and is undergoing treatment at St. Jude. All proceeds will go toward her medical care.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The benefit features live music, pulled pork lunch plates for $10 served until 1 p.m., silent and live auctions and more. You can also enter a raffle for a custom 10/22 Ruger Carbine.

The Elks Lodge is located at 1366 U.S. Highway 61 South.

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