Here are all the states providing unemployment benefits for people who quit or were fired because they’re refusing to get vaccinated

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee are rewriting laws to expand benefits to unvaccinated people.
  • Mostly GOP-led states are stepping up resistance to vaccine mandates, now in the form of expanding unemployment.
  • Some of the same states were first to cut unemployment amid the labor shortage.

Some states are starting to provide unemployment benefits to people quitting or getting fired because they’re refusing to get vaccinated. 

It’s not the first time unemployment benefits have been used to make a political point about the pandemic, but it’s a reversal of a trend from just months ago, when a spate of majority GOP-led states opted out of federal unemployment benefits prematurely; in many cases, that halted benefits completely for gig workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed who were newly eligible

Now, some GOP-led states are spearheading resistance to vaccine mandates and passing new legislation to ban them. Here’s a rundown of those changes with a focus on jobless aid.

Kim Reynolds Iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) of Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo
Iowa was one of the first GOP-led states to end enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits for workers this summer. The $US300 ($AU419) in additional weekly checks — along with programs that made freelancers and the long-term unemployed eligible for benefits — came to a close on June 12.

But while Iowa-based freelancers and gig workers have been unable to collect benefits for months, unvaccinated workers are now explicitly eligible. On October 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that said someone “who is discharged from employment for refusing to receive a vaccination against COVID-19” won’t be “disqualified for benefits” because of how they were discharged.

The legislation “gives employees the assurance that they will still receive unemployment benefits despite being fired for standing up for their beliefs,” Reynolds said in a statement. She added that, while she believes the vaccine is the “best defense” against COVID-19, “no Iowan should be forced to lose their job or livelihood over the COVID-19 vaccine.”  


Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Florida approved a bill on Nov. 19 extending unemployment aid to unvaccinated people as part of a legislative package that banned vaccine mandates.

“Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida,” DeSantis said in a recent statement.

The state was among those that yanked federal unemployment benefits before their expiration to prod people to find new jobs.

The expansion of jobless aid to the unvaccinated has generated criticism among Florida Democrats. Rep. Anna Eskamani called it “a joke” in an interview with the Florida Phoenix, a local newspaper.

In this Wednesday, July 1, 2020 file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions during a news conference in Nashville, Tenn.
Gov. Bill Lee (R) of Tennessee. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill barring government bodies, private businesses and schools from requiring a COVID-19 shot or asking for proof of vaccination.

Part of the bill also expanded jobless aid to people who lose their jobs due to vaccine mandates, even authorizing retroactive payments for those eligible.

Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law earlier this month, seeking to reverse what he called an “overreach” from the federal government as it moved to mandate vaccinations in the private sector.


Laura Kelly.
Gov. Laura Kelly (R) of Kansas. John Hanna/AP
On November 23, Kansas lawmakers successfully passed a new measure that explicitly ensures people who were fired over remaining unvaccinated would still receive benefits.

Workers “would not become ineligible for benefits or be disqualified from receiving benefits” if they have “declined to accept work that requires compliance with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement,” or had an exemption request denied.

Kansas governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. She opted not to end enhanced benefits early in the state over the summer.

“I know there are Kansans who believe this legislation goes too far, and there are others who believe this legislation doesn’t go far enough,” Kelly said in a statement. “But I was elected to lead, and leadership means seeking compromise.”