Gov. Reeves Tours Local Manufacturers As State Ends Supplemental Federal Unemployment Benefit

SALTILLO, MISS. (WCBI) – Governor Tate Reeves tours two factories in Northeast Mississippi, only days after the state opted out of the additional federal unemployment benefits.

This tour of the Ashley Furniture bedding manufacturing plant in Saltillo was an opportunity for Governor Reeves to see the latest in robotics and other technology at work.

It was also a chance for the governor to hear from Ashley Furniture CEO Todd Wanek about the need for workers.

“We currently have over two thousand people we are trying to fill in the state of Mississippi,” Wanek said.

Demand for home furnishings started climbing last May, but getting employees on the assembly lines hasn’t been easy.  Covid related shutdowns caused unemployment claims to balloon last spring and Governor Reeves says the additional money from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program was needed, at the time.

“We’re not in May and June of 2020, we’re in 2021, the fact of the matter is we may not be at the end of the road on covid but we can see the end of the road and part of the goal of getting from here to there is getting our people back to work,  we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get all of our people back employed,” Gov Reeves said.

The high demand for home furnishings, coupled with the labor shortage means Ashley Furniture has a backlog of about six to eight weeks from when an order is placed until it is delivered.

Ashley Furniture has taken steps to attract more employees, such as sign-on and attendance bonuses.

“We’re also looking at our wages, doing different things throughout and one of the things we do to keep people there is making sure people are safe, following CDC guidelines, encouraging everybody to get vaccinated, one of the big things we’re trying to do to make sure people are safe when they come to our facilities,” said Earnie Gates, Senior Director of Operations for Mississippi.

Wanek believes the furniture industry is strong and he also believes the governor’s decision to end the additional federal unemployment benefits will help get more people back to work and help companies like Ashley meet the high demand from customers.

Governor Reeves also toured the Max Homes factory this afternoon in Fulton.

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