The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 02, 2012

Republicans kill plan to extend jobless benefit weeks

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – It was bad enough for the state’s workers when Gov. Rick Snyder signed a Republican-backed bill last March 28, which made Michigan the first state in history to reduce Unemployment Insurance benefits, from 26 to 20 weeks.

Now, along comes another nasty consequence to the law.

Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation is based on the benefit weeks available to workers at the state level. States that offer the full 26 weeks of benefits would get 89 weeks of benefits for jobless workers who file between March and May. Michigan now offers only 20 weeks, so jobless workers in our state are eligible for only 69 weeks of benefits.

On Feb. 22, Senate Democrats moved to clear the way to bring in that additional federal assistance to Michigan’s unemployed workers by offering legislation reinstating those six weeks of state unemployment benefits. Senate Democratic Floor Leader Tupac A. Hunter (D – Detroit), sponsored Senate Bill 370 to do just that, and moved to discharge the bill so that it could be immediately voted on and passed to restore this aid to unemployed workers. His motion was defeated on a near party-line vote.

“We have an opportunity to aid countless struggling families throughout Michigan, but Republicans would apparently rather put their own political interests ahead of the interests of our citizens,” said Hunter. “It was thoroughly disappointing to see them refuse to do what’s right for Michigan and right for our people.”

Hunter’s discharge motion was defeated on a 24-12 vote, with only Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) crossing over and voting with the Democrats.

Michigan Republicans decided to cut state benefit weeks last March as part of a short-term trade-off with long-term consequences. About 35,000 jobless workers who were about to lose benefits were allowed to keep getting emergency UI benefits for up to 99 weeks – but the GOP offset to that additional expenditure was cutting benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), did not return our phone call asking for a comment.

Said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer: “The consequences of the Republicans’ actions are clear: Michigan’s unemployed workers will lose access to more federal unemployment assistance than any state in the nation. I am once again calling on Gov. Snyder and my Republican colleagues to restore the assistance available to our unemployed workers in Michigan who deserve far better than the lip service they’ve been given by this administration.”