Michigan Democrats are working on a bill to restore the six-weeks of unemployment Republicans lopped off a bill the Governor signed on Monday.
The Governor signed House Bill 4408 into law on Monday, despite every single Michigan U.S. Democratic Congressman and groups like the Michigan League for Human Services urging him to veto it. The bill was meant to reduce fraud and clear up some technical language so that unemployed Michigan workers could continue to receive federal extended benefits up to 99 weeks. But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, slipped in an amendment cutting the state benefit period from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.
Gov. Rick Snyder blamed the decision to stiff workers on the Legislative Republicans, but he signed the bill anyway. Since he took office in January, Snyder has signed 15 bills into law, and he has held a press conference for each bill signing, except his one. He even held a press conference for the bill signing for the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills when more than 5,000 people were just a few hundred yards away on the Capitol lawn protesting against the EFM expansion.
But there was no press conference for this bill signing.
The only good news is that 150,000 Michigan residents will continue to receive 20-weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits that will keep the economic recovery going and will allow them to put food on the table and maybe keep their homes. The bad news is that it will permanently reduce the number of weeks of state-funded unemployment benefits. As a result, workers who file as of January 15, 2012, will only be eligible for 20 weeks of state-funded benefits, instead of the current 26, before going to federal benefits. With this reduction Michigan will now offer the fewest weeks of unemployment in the nation.
What is even worse is that because federal unemployment extensions are proportional to the number of weeks the state offers, this change in the law means a Michigan resident making a claim next year could receive 22 fewer weeks of benefits than they would have this year if the drop in unemployment from the highest it has been since the Depression does not continue. In other words, unemployed workers in Michigan will also lose 16 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.
For most laid-off workers, 20 weeks provides little leeway for a decent job search, especially during recessionary periods when any work is hard to come by. But to illustrate how out of touch the Republicans really are, they actually believe people would rather collect $362 a week – the maximum – than work. In fact, Rep. Ken Yonker, R- Caledonia, said that unemployed workers would, “rather be on their unemployment (than working). So, sometimes we’ve got to have tough love.”
Unbelievable, but this is typical of Republicans. What makes it even worse is Snyder’s attitude. His campaign was nothing but slick TV ads and bumper stickers, and one of the favorite false talking points was “Job One is jobs.”
Apparently, that’s not the case.
After a speech to the Michigan Association of Counties on Tuesday, Snyder was quoted as saying, “Next year, my main issue is, let’s start the job creation process” and questioned the results of the Republican Legislative anti-middle class agenda pushed through in the first three months of 2011, stating that GOP lawmakers had done nothing to help the state’s ailing job market while creating serious concerns for workers with legislation that would allow contracts to be broken and jobs eliminated.
“What happened to ‘Job One is Jobs,’” said Senator Bert Johnson, D-Detroit. “Those same people whose unemployment benefits you just cut can’t wait until ‘next year’ for you to focus on job creation.”
To make sure workers can hold on, Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and Senate Democratic Floor Leader Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, announced that they are working on legislation that would restore the weeks of unemployment insurance cut by HB 4408. The new law would make Michigan, which has been hardest hit by joblessness in the past decade, the only state in the country to reduce unemployment insurance for their families.
“This is not the time to cut unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control,” Hunter said. “Restoring these six weeks of benefits will ensure that workers have all the assistance they need while they are searching for employment.”