Michigan House Republicans: End pandemic $ 300 unemployment benefit
LANSING – With the end of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, Republicans at Michigan House voted Thursday to end increased unemployment assistance for unemployed residents almost three months earlier.
In doing so, they joined GOP lawmakers in over a dozen other states that end weekly benefits of $ 300 in an effort to help business owners struggling to find employees in the midst of a tight workforce.
Companies that have survived the forced shutdowns and financial benefits “now find it difficult to bounce back and compete with these enhanced federal benefits that discourage re-entry into the workforce,” said Rep. Pauline Wendzel, R-Watervliet, in a speech on the ground.
“These aren’t greedy corporations. They are mom-and-pop stores.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced earlier Thursday that the state will roll back all trade capacity limits and face mask rules on Tuesday due to the continued decline in the number of COVID-19 cases and rising rates of vaccination.
The first-term Democrat is not expected to sign a law ending the $ 300 per week pandemic benefit, which is expected to continue until early September.
Instead, Whitmer proposed using a state “work-sharing” program to provide the same benefit to returning employees as an incentive to re-enter the workforce.
Democrats cited the governor’s plan as they voted against the GOP amendment, which passed the House by 60-49.
The enhanced benefit “may not seem like much to those of us making a decent living, but for families receiving that $ 300 a week, it’s the difference between feeding their children or being hungry,” said Yousef Rabhi State Representative D-Ann Arbor.
“It’s the difference between having a roof over your head or an eviction.”
Business groups celebrated the House vote.
Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said 26 other states no longer offer federal benefits, which he described as “necessary for the onset of COVID but which are now proving to be, in fact, harmful “.
The effects are acute in tourism and retail related businesses, where “there are even more vacancies than there are candidates for these positions,” Studley said.
“What our members are hearing is that as long as people can collect (up to) $ 362 per week in regular state unemployment benefits plus an additional $ 300 per week in extended federal unemployment benefits, they won’t. not going to apply for job opportunities, ”Studley mentioned.
Michigan had an unemployment rate of 4.9% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, representing about 231,000 unemployed people.
However, another 216,000 workers are out of the labor force, compared to just before the pandemic, when 4.91 million state residents were employed or actively seeking employment.
Paula Gardner and Arjun Thakkar contributed to this report.