LANSING, Michigan – State Senator Morris W. Hood III (D–Detroit) and Representative LaTanya Garrett (D–Detroit) have introduced joint legislation to increase the maximum weekly benefit and extend the insurance eligibility period for unemployed citizens in Michigan.

Currently, Michigan’s maximum weekly unemployment benefits are $362 for individuals and up to $392 for individuals with dependents — figures that have not changed since 2002.

“Imagine if you hadn’t gotten a raise in 13 years, but your living expenses kept going up,” Sen. Hood said. “This is a reality for our citizens who are still struggling to find work and survive on unemployment benefits.”

The bills would raise the weekly maximum benefit to a rate of $471 for claims filed after Oct. 1, 2015, and index it to be automatically adjusted to future inflation. They also would restore the unemployment insurance eligibility period to 26 weeks, from the existing period of 20 weeks. Both measures would bring the state in line with other Midwestern states — including Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio — each of which already have established eligibility periods of 26 weeks and significantly higher weekly maximums of $629, $569 and $581, respectively.

“When someone loses their job, it is often devastating not only for them, but for their family as well. If Michigan wants to retain its talent, it is essential that we empower workers during that transition,” Rep. Garrett said. “With inflation steadily on the rise, it is only fair that the unemployment benefit should be adjusted to reflect its effect. Making changes like this to the unemployment insurance system is a signal that we are willing to do whatever we can to help stabilize Michigan families.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan’s unemployment rate remains at a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent and the state is one of only eight states that offer fewer than 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.

“If we’re going to give employers tax breaks, the least we can do is provide the unemployed with the help and time they need to find gainful employment,” Sen. Hood said. “Our bills aim to give them that opportunity.”