Unemployment Benefits for Thousands in Michigan at Risk

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Last December, Democrats and Republicans in Washington came together at the last minute to extend unemployment benefits by 20 weeks for those who've exhausted the maximum of 79 weeks provided by state and federal benefits.

But Michigan may end up saying 'thanks, but no thanks' to the money.

That's because, although the money has been approved, Michigan's legislature needs to pass legislation that would make the state eligible to receive it.

35,000 jobless Michiganders could see extended unemployment benefits immediately stop on April 2nd if the Legislature fails to act by next Friday. And state agencies say there are more who could see benefits cut off if an extension to the Extended Benefits (EB) program isn't accepted.

"Approximately 150,000 unemployed workers in Michigan could potentially be affected by the loss of the EB program," said Steve Arwood, Deputy Director of the Deparment of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. "These are individuals who are currently on EB and those who could exhaust all of their benefits before the end of this year."

"Michigan has been hit incredibly hard by unemployment," said Rep. Barb Byrum (D - Onondaga). "This money would allow those who are unemployed through no fault of their own to put food on the table."

So on Wednesday, Rep. Byrum proposed a substitute bill on the House floor that would've allowed approximately $500 million in federal funds into the state. That bill was voted down.

A representative with House Speaker Jase Bolger's (R - Marshall) office says the Speaker is still on the fence about the issue. That representative told WILX that although Bolger understands the problems Michigan's long-term jobless are facing, he's concerned that the increased costs businesses would bear from extending benefits could be too high.

Bolger isn't the only lawmaker with uncertainty about approving an extension.

"Michigan businesses have to pay into this so this is a cost for businesses that are struggling to keep people employed," said Sen. Rick Jones (R - Grand Ledge).

The uncertainty comes because although prior unemployment benefit extensions passed in Washington have been funded by federal stimulus money, nobody is quite sure where the funding for the newest extension is going to come from.

Sen. Jones says a compromise could be possible if the extension comes with overall reforms to the unemployment benefits system.

"I want the truly unemployed to have benefits," said Sen. Jones. "I worry about all of the cases I hear where people aren't looking for employment."

Michigan isn't alone in facing this same issue. 5 other states, including Ohio and Minnesota, have passed legislation this year in order to accept the federal funding.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by charles Location: lansing on Mar 23, 2011 at 06:27 AM
    THIS STORY NEEDS MORE REPORTING NOW!
  • by Anonymous on Mar 21, 2011 at 01:31 PM
    "Get a job"? Where are the jobs? What an asinine comment, "Get a job.". The only people getting jobs are those with Ph. D.s or Masters degrees; not ordinary people. (Unless you happen to know the boss or CEO personally.)
  • by lisa on Mar 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM
    I work for a small business as a bean counter. I know a lot of other bean counters in small business. We all checked and we are paying under $125.00 on average a quarter into Unemployment. Think the idea this would save small business by not taking the money is pure unadulterated bull. What a bunch of mean scrooges we have in the state legislature
  • by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2011 at 01:54 PM
    Get a job. I think the peoples who are saying they need this benefits need to get a job or volunteer.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2011 at 01:07 PM
    I personally don't think any politian has a heart, just a pocketbook. People will starve and become homless with out the continuing benefits, not that it's a lot, but it is better than nothing. But our elected officials don't seem to care.
  • by Steve Location: Mt. Pleasant, MI on Mar 18, 2011 at 01:04 PM
    The unemployed did not create the ecomomic mess in this country. Greedy business owners who shuttled jobs overseas did. And now our state government has turned down Federal dollars to help the downtrodden. This is immoral on any level. The folks at the bottom are making all the sacrifices while wealthy business owners receive tax breaks. Democrats need to start playing dirty, like Republicans, instead of taking the high road.
  • by Frustriated on Mar 18, 2011 at 05:30 AM
    Although there may be some who have given up looking, there are many more who are still seeking employment only to be told after interviewing that: * the job is on hold * the company will (now) only look internally to hire * the job is real, but no funding exists in the budget to hire anyone for now. Companies are hiring the very young. Anyone with 10 years or more experience is getting the shaft! PLEASE EXTEND THE UNEMPLOYMENT - I AM NOT LAZY, ONLY DISCRIMINATED AGAINST DUE TO AGE...
  • by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2011 at 04:55 AM
    Now that we have a republican in office we will see harsh cuts and more programs wiped out.History repeats itself.Oh we do have problems in this country now & all states are getting worse.Now who makes the laws?who votes to give themselves raises?Who allows companies to leave this country?Who allows prices to go up higher every yr?Who gets elected then has memory loss of promises they made?If the government would all work together,and worry about all,instead of the rich class of people.this country would not be failing.Cuts and lack of jobs to support programs needed will ruin this country.More loose jobs all the time.Government has big ideas,most fail in the long run.So what is wrong with that picture.
  • by Homeless on Mar 17, 2011 at 06:26 PM
    Senators Bolger and Jones need to ask themselves, "What will those small businesses do that are struggling now do when they have much less customers?" They don't seem to have a grasp on what it is really like to struggle just to survive.
  • by Kim Location: Detroit on Mar 17, 2011 at 04:17 PM
    I came across this article and it is truly sad. Michigan is one of the most hardest-hit states regarding unemployment & I just find it hard to believe that peoples lives depend on the Michigan State House say yea or nay on IF the unemployed should recieve an additional 20 weeks of EB extention? Are you kidding me? Regardless of where this money comes from (where has the money been coming from)The Michigan House needs to help these people- what are you people thinking besides you got a job so let the unemployed suffer? Sorry but that's what this message says to me. Between our new Governor & now this, I'm ashamed of this what Michigan is becoming-lost! How sad.
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