Missouri governor considering unemployment benefits for people fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

GOP Governor of Missouri Mike Parson says he wants to help those fired from their jobs for refusing the federally mandated coronavirus vaccine.

Parson cited a move by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, which guarantees unemployment benefits to those laid off for noncompliance.

In an interview of Thursday, Parson commented, “You see what Iowa just did. I think we want to make sure civil rights or civil liberties are being exercised. If somebody has religious conviction, we want to make sure that’s upheld – whatever that takes. And if it’s for health reasons, we want to include that, too.”

Late last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a bill into law that allows workers to seek both religious and medical exemptions from the vaccine requirements; the bill also guarantees unemployment benefits to those who are fired for their refusal.  

Over the last two weeks, Republican Attorney General of Missouri Eric Schmitt filed three lawsuits aimed at stopping the federal vaccine mandates, which are set to be endorsed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The mandate extends to all federal contractors, federally contracted employees, private companies with 100 or more workers, and health care facilities serving Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Parson spoke to the impact the mandate would possibly have on health care workers and those whose help was critical in the early stages of the pandemic: “People have been out there for 18 months on the front lines and all of a sudden you’re going to say they’re not worthy to do their jobs anymore is problematic,” he said. “I don’t care where they work or who they are because, during the heat of the battle, we won with them.”

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, temporarily blocked the federal order after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and others filed a similar suit. Even though Parson did not directly indicate his desire to guarantee unemployment benefits to those fired for refusing the vaccine, he did say his administration is planning for how to handle the mandates.

“If people are going to lose their jobs, which I don’t think they should… but evidently there’s a little bit of a problem as to what everybody’s view is on those civil rights issues,” he said. “So we want to be prepared for that if they go down that road.”

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