Lawmakers Aim To Tackle Unemployment Benefits In Lame Duck Session

As part of the COVID-19 response, the state boosted their unemployment program to offer more money, for a longer period of time to laid off workers.

Those expanded benefits shrink back down at the end of the year.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and democratic lawmakers want to make them permanent.Unemployment Presser Pic

“Michiganders frankly deserve better,” says Representative Donna Lasinski.

Rep. Lasinski takes over as the House Minority Leader in January but before then, in the lame duck sessions, she wants to extend the unemployment benefits put in place during the pandemic.

“ I say ‘extending’ but it’s really restoring it to what it was just a few years ago,” says Lasinski, “In 2012, when those weeks were reduced.”

The percentage of worker wage received would jump about 20% and the length of their claim will go from 20 weeks to 26.

The current set up in Michigan falls well short of federal averages, especially when compared to surrounding states.

“Michigan is by far one of the worst states in which to find yourself unemployed,” says Rachael Kohl of the University of Michigan Worker’s Rights Clinic.

“I’m not surprised, given how low it is, how far behind we are,” says Kris Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant and Broad Leaf in Grand Rapids.

Spaulding spoke on the press conference today. She says it’s the service and hospitality industries that are hit first when people are unemployed and money is tight.

“They need to have enough to do more than just scrape by,” says Spaulding, “It means they can support the local economy and generally that means places like ours.”

For her own workers, when a pause or lockdown forces temporary layoffs, employees may not be able to afford to wait to get their old job back.

“We had a good number that opted out of coming back,” says Spaulding, “Whether that’s health scare or they just needed something else, we did not retain all of our original team that we had when this all happened.”

The pandemic exposed a lot of problems with the state’s unemployment system, this is just another issue lawmakers may tackle with just nine session days left.

“This is about ensuring that Michiganders don’t fall into a spiral,” says Spaulding, “And a cycle of poverty that we can’t recover from.”

Categories: Coronavirus, Coronavirus Support