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OPINION: It’s time to step up and take care of Mississippians

Being fiscally responsible is one thing.

Ignoring the pain of Mississippi’s citizens is quite another.

As the news came out last week that Mississippi’s unemployment rate soared above nine percent, Gov. Haley Barbour was standing firm on his pledge not to accept funding for unemployment compensation.

“When the federal money runs out, we’d have to increase taxes,” Barbour has said.

All of that was before we found out that every county in Mississippi had an increase in unemployment for the month of January with the number of Mississippians now unemployed now more than 120,000.

There are multiple ways Barbour could handle the situation that would allow Mississippians to have extended unemployment benefits, one of which is to repeal the law for extended benefits when the time is right.

People in Mississippi are hurting.

People who have been doing everything right for as along as anyone can remember are hurting.

These are folks who have been working hard, paying their electricity bills, the car notes, their house notes, cable bills, buying clothes for their children and paying taxes on time for as long as anyone can remember.

We owe it to them to help as best as we can.

If we are not going to use money from the federal government’s stimulus plan, then it’s time to break the piggy bank and use some of our rainy day fund of more than $360 million.

State Treasurer Tate Reaves said last week before the release of the latest unemployment numbers that accepting money from the stimulus plan meant there was no reason to break into the rainy day fund.

If this recession continues on as it has, the numbers are only going to get worse.

But here are a few from last week’s report: Winston County’s unemployment rate skyrocketed 5.5 percent; Choctaw County 4.7 percent; Claiborne 4.4 percent; Jefferson 4.2 percent and Tunica 4.1 percent.

And remember that’s not the unemployment rate, that’s how much it went up from December.

More than 19 percent of the Tunica, Holmes and Jefferson counties are out of work.

This is no longer a situation where the governor can play partisan politics and say we can’t take government money for one reason or another and then say we can use the rainy fay fund.

From where I am sitting, my feet are getting pretty wet, and there are a lot of good, hard-working, pull-up-your-bootstraps Mississippians that deserve a hand up when they need it the most.

No one is asking for forever.

Contact MBJ Managing Editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1807.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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