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Missouri to reinstate rules for unemployment, food stamps

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — State officials said on Tuesday that they were reinstating requirements for unemployment and food stamps that were waived because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Anna Hui, director of the state’s labor department, said workers would need to comply with job search requirements to keep getting unemployment after July 4.

She cited a study by the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics that shows unemployment benefits, coupled with an extra $600 a week from the federal government, mean many workers nationally are getting more than they did while working.

The study lists Missouri workers as getting on average 152 percent to 161 percent of their past wages in unemployment benefits.

“We all know that a system that rewards individuals to be unemployed is unsustainable,” Hui said.

Acting Department of Social Services Director Jennifer Tidball said that starting July 1 families would again need to verify that they’re still eligible to receive food stamps. The requirement was waived during the pandemic.

Tidball added that about 60 percent of eligible families of students who received free and reduced lunch at school had applied to get a one-time, maximum payment of $302. She said the agency had extended the deadline to apply for the money to July 7.

Missouri’s health department reported on Tuesday more than 16,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 882 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

Gov. Mike Parson let a statewide social distancing order expire Monday. The end of statewide rules comes as the coronavirus is spreading beyond Missouri’s largest cities, fueled in part by outbreaks in meat packing plants and nursing homes.

“COVID-19 as of June 16 didn’t disappear in Missouri,” state health Director Randall Williams said. “So we have to be prepared to watch closely, working with our local partners every day, to make sure that we get in there early before it gains momentum.”

Williams said the Department of Health and Senior Services was sending two contact tracers and an interpreter to southwestern Missouri, where the virus is spreading. He’s also partnering with Arkansas’ health director to develop a strategy for fighting the virus in that region.

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