Saturday marks the end for extended unemployment benefits for Michigan residents. The change comes as a result of the state's unemployment rate not meeting a new required level by the federal government.
Hundreds of people called, emailed and visited the Unemployment insurance Agency on South Cedar Street for help, now that they've been notified of their benefits running out, and were mailed they're last check.
UIA employees fielded questions similar to those of David Wheeler; unable to find a sufficient job and wondering how he will support himself now: "People are just having a hard time finding jobs right now and we need all the help we can get," he said.
He was laid off in October from his job as a caregiver for the elderly, and his 26 weeks of regular unemployment checks will run out this spring. He dreads what would happen if he didn't find a job before then: "I don't know what I'd do really. I just have faith that everything works out."
Even though he will have a tough time, he is still better off than people being laid off now. A state regulation says anyone applying for unemployment aid after January 15th will now only be eligible for 20 weeks.
UIA employees say this day is about making sure their clients know what other resources are available to them. "We have had a high call volume this year," explained UIA Director Steve Arwood. "People have told us they've had a tough time getting through to the agency and we wanted to make ourselves available; that's what we're here for."
David is grateful for the agency, but can't help but feel these changes came at a bad time: "It's just hard for everybody right now. At least let us get back on our feet."
Michigan, along with Maine, is the first state to have their extended benefits cut. The remaining 48 states will follow within the year.