Senate Democrats Expand Unemployment as Federal Benefits Expire

LANSING — The Senate Democratic Caucus has introduced a comprehensive plan to boost Michigan’s unemployment system to expand benefits for unemployed individuals starting July 25, 2020 — the last date of federal benefits for unemployment.

Currently, unemployed Michiganders can access a more generous unemployment compensation than Michigan affords in non-pandemic times. The standard unemployment rate under a Republican-passed law from 2011 is $362 per week for 20 weeks — falling substantially short of what those currently receiving federal unemployment assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic are getting and threatening to upend family finances statewide.

As such, the Senate Democratic bill package, Senate Bills 453 and 995-1005, would increase the length and quality of benefits received by Michiganders as the pandemic still threatens the livelihoods of many across our state and nation. Senate Bill 995, sponsored by Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), would increase the maximum weekly benefit to $602 per week. Paired with Senate Bill 453, introduced by Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), unemployed Michiganders would receive that money for 26 weeks instead of the current 20 weeks.

“The people of our state need help, not partisan bickering, and that’s exactly why Senate Democrats are stepping up to help our residents when they need it most, providing them more financial stability and ensuring a smoother transition to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads,” Sen. Dayna Polehanki said. “We must provide more equitable solutions that focus on people, not punishment, because unemployment is not a crime and the people who need it are not criminals.”

Highlights of other bills in the package include:

“The Snyder Administration made indiscriminate funding cuts, implemented a new robo-fraud detection system, and fired one third of all staff at the Unemployment Insurance Agency,” said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “They forced people into bankruptcy and financial ruin as a punishment for doing nothing wrong, stole from UIA funds to balance the budget, and blamed the robots they put in charge for the mess, instead of taking responsibility for the pain they caused. Then, they waited for Gov. Whitmer to get elected so she could clean up their mess. Despite this, Gov. Whitmer has reacted calmly and decisively to multiple crises, but she needs legislative action to help people — not punish them for fake fraud charges invented by robots. Michigan labor unions are proud to stand with legislative Democrats in support of these bills that will do a little more to get help to people who are struggling right now under an economy in crisis.”

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