Gig workers will soon lose unemployment eligibility and experts say it’s a mistake

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Posted at 6:11 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 19:33:31-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Cutting off federal unemployment benefits in Tennessee this July will also mean thousands of gig workers go back to no longer qualifying.

Tennessee recorded the lowest number of new unemployment claims this week since December. The Tennessee Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development says this is a sign that people are returning to the workforce.

You look around Broadway and it appears like there’s plenty of opportunities, but gig workers like Chance Hatch say not every job fits every person.

“Gig work was the only thing I could really rely on,” Hatch said.

It’s probably easier to think of gig work as when the job fits you and not the other way around. This flexibility is what Hatch looks for and only a few jobs offer. Gig work is much easier for him to manage to be his boss. Now understands why some believe getting back to the regular 9-5 jobs don’t seem practical.

“I think there’s real anxiety about getting back into the workforce after this whole pandemic. There’s just a whole lot of fear behind everything. People like to put everything aside, but I mean it’s still there,” Hatch said.

Dr. Alexandrea Ravenelle is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina and wrote a book called Hustle and Gig. Her most recent work includes an NSF RAPID Response grant where she studies the impact of the coronavirus on precarious and gig workers in New York City. She’s spoken to numerous gig workers who for the first time became eligible for unemployment.

“They didn’t want to sit at home. They didn’t want to collect unemployment. They viewed it as actually stigmatized. They talked about it as being something for people not like themselves. So people want to work,” Ravenelle said.

What Tennessee lawmakers have feared is the exact opposite. That people were more comfortable with staying home and collecting the $300/week in benefits. Gov. Bill Lee along with at least 19 other GOP-led states chose to end the federal pandemic program.

Everywhere you look in Nashville, the jobs appear to be there. There are no guarantees, however, that these jobs last through the pandemic. At least with unemployment, Dr. Ravenelle says there was a safety net and a chance to find the job that best fits you.

“Just because there are some jobs in a newspaper doesn’t mean there are enough jobs or that they’re paying enough people to support themselves,” Ravenelle said.