Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to launch a state-funded program that gives people who live out-of-state a $250 airline voucher to travel to Tennessee is drawing criticism from Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) who says the administration hasn’t focused enough on families still trying to recover from the pandemic’s economic downturn.
After cutting support for out-of-work Tennesseans, Gov. Lee announced this week he is now offering state-paid airfare vouchers to tourists flying to Tennessee. The campaign will give away 10,000 free $250 airline e-gift cards to tourists who purchase a two-night stay at certain hotels in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.
“Tennesseans who lost their job through no fault of their own deserve leaders who will stand up for them when times are tough,” Sen. Gilmore said. “The governor’s decision to reject federal aid for these families while handing millions to airline CEOs and tourists betrays these workers. Why are our own families so unworthy of support?”
Since January, more than 253,000 Tennesseans have been laid off, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Labor. Despite elevated job losses, Gov. Lee made the decision to reject federal assistance for unemployed Tennesseans starting in July.
The federal unemployment program was providing $300 a week to qualifying individuals.
In June, a congressional report showed that Tennessee’s economy will lose $486 million due to Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to cancel the enhanced federal unemployment.
“A quarter million Tennesseans have been laid off since January,” Sen. Gilmore said. “Despite the claims of some politicians and wealthy special interests, our state economy is not back normal and it’s not producing enough good-paying jobs for people — especially parents — to make ends meet.”
While the governor continues to insist there thousands of open jobs, people on the job hunt have found the wages of open positions are not enough to meet the basic needs of their family, from rent and utilities to health and child care.
“If we want to make progress for every family, let’s prioritize the job of serving Tennesseans first. Let’s increase access to childcare so every parent can resume their career and let’s ensure healthcare is affordable so workers don’t get caught in cycles of debt,” Sen. Gilmore said. “It’s easy to pal around with music stars, but now is time for the hard work of serving our families.”
This isn’t the first time Gov. Lee has prioritized corporations over workers. In June, Gov. Lee announced a plan to distribute $44 million worth of new federal assistance to business owners just days after announcing the end of support for people who lost a job.