Maximus call center in Hattiesburg, site of regular strikes, lays off 143 workers 


Maximus call center in Hattiesburg, site of regular strikes, lays off 143 workers 

Friday marks the last day of work for 143 Maximus call center employees in Hattiesburg who were told last week they no longer have jobs.

Maximus said overstaffing led to the decision to cut some of the workforce handling calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Employees have been organizing at the Hattiesburg location, regularly holding protests over the last 10 months, calling for better working conditions, pay and . Workers hope to eventually form a union.

Workers planned to gather again outside the Hattiesburg office Friday afternoon in protest of the layoffs, which they say arrived with barely 10 days notice last week.

“Maximus cannot possibly claim that it treats its employees with respect and sensitivity when, as a billion-dollar corporation, it’s failing to provide enough notice of their termination or sufficient severance pay for workers to take care of their families,” Tiandra Robinson, an organizer at Communications Workers of America, said in a statement. “Shame on Maximus for pulling the rug out from under hundreds of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

Maximus said in a statement that “low attrition rates” resulted in “surplus staffing.” After the layoffs, the Hattiesburg office will employ 787 workers who handle a range of phone calls for the federal government including Medicare and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Workers last held a strike in November, during the start of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, when calls at the office surged. That protest attracted about 200 workers outside the Hattiesburg office demanding better working conditions and better policies to handle caller abuse.

Robinson said this latest move by Maximus shows why it’s important for workers to unionize so they can be better protected from “arbitrary layoffs.”

“Whenever we make staffing decisions, we make it a priority to treat all of our people with respect and sensitivity,” Maximus said in a statement. “That is why we are coordinating with other Maximus programs where remote positions may be available for impacted employees. We also will ensure that we consider these employees for other hiring needs if additional staff is required in the future.”

The laid off workers were not given any severance, according to Communications Workers of America.

Organizers say another protest is also planned for Friday afternoon at the Maximus call center in Bogalusa, La., which is also cutting jobs.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Gov. Reeves, other governors ask Biden to end COVID-19 health emergency


Gov. Reeves, other governors ask Biden to end COVID-19 health emergency

Gov. Tate Reeves has joined with 24 other states to ask to end the Federal Public Health Emergency for , which would allow the to some people from coverage.

First declared in January 2020 under the Trump Administration, the public health emergency gives providers flexibility in how they operate. This public health emergency has been extended repeatedly since — it was last extended again in October and set to end in January 2023, though the department has not indicated it will not renew. The department has said it will give governors at least 60 days notice before a declaration ends.

“It’s past time to get back to life as normal,” Reeves said in a tweet Monday.

His comment echoed the notion put forth by the governors in the letter: “While the virus will be with us for some time, the emergency phase of the pandemic is behind us.”

While Mississippi is not currently seeing a major surge, COVID-19cases are still occurring on a daily basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,255 cases were identified in Mississippi in the last week. Case numbers have ticked up slightly in recent weeks, but have not approached any of the earlier peaks. The CDC also reports that 53.5% of have completed the primary vaccine series, a number that has held stagnant for some time.

During the public health emergency, states are not allowed to kick anyone off Medicaid under federal regulations. In exchange, the states have received extra federal funding.

In the letter, the governors say the increased number of people covered by Medicaid has been a drain on state funding. The percentage of each person’s care the federal government covered was increased, but the state has more people they are responsible for overseeing.

The governors say that 20 million people have been added to Medicaid coverage since the start of the pandemic, a number that “continues to climb as the (public health emergency) continues to be extended every 90 days.”

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid has also changed the services they provide for those who would have traditionally lost eligibility, to the confusion of patients and providers.

By lifting the public health emergency, Mississippi could return to only providing Medicaid coverage to specific groups: poor pregnant women, poor children, the disabled, some categories of the elderly and some caretakers of Medicaid recipients living in extreme poverty.

Reeves ended Mississippi’s state of emergency in November of last year.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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