Governor extends unemployment benefits to 26 weeks

Michigan

In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. The governor delivered remarks addressing Michiganders after the Michigan Attorney General, Michigan State Police, U.S. Department of Justice, and FBI announced state and federal charges against 13 members of two militia groups who were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill the governor. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bills 886 and 991 codifying part of her executive orders expanding unemployment benefits to Michiganders.

The bills the governor signed today will extend unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from 20 to 26 weeks until the end of the year. Senate Bills 886 and 991 were both sponsored by Senator Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth). 

“No Michigander should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a global pandemic,” said Governor Whitmer. “These bipartisan bills are an important step in providing immediate relief for working families, but given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Michigan, I urge the legislature to take further action to make this permanent. 40 states, including all of our neighbors, automatically provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment relief. Michiganders deserve better than a short-term extension that expires at the end of the year. It’s time to work together on a long-term solution for working families.” 

While the bills signed today codify the majority of the governor’s executive orders on unemployment, the legislature failed to extend the governor’s efforts to speed up claim processing by allowing UIA to review only a claimant’s most recent employer separation. UIA must now evaluate every job a worker has left in the past 18 months – a waste of resources because employers are not being directly charged for benefits paid at this time. 

“When we get back to session I look forward to taking up our bills to expand unemployment benefits and create stronger pathways to get Michigan families the resources they need during a pandemic,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown). 

“The talent pipeline is an ongoing challenge in segments of the economy, however many other workers are still struggling and this legislation provides certainty for them and employers that the unemployment system will stay stable and funded for foreseeable future allowing successful programs like workshare to flourish,” said Sandy Baruah, President & CEO of the Detroit Chamber. 

“Michigan’s working people are grateful to the legislature for taking action to patch some of the holes in our state’s safety net that were ripped open weeks ago by a narrow Supreme Court decision,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “But this virus isn’t going to disappear just because we are tired of it, and it certainly won’t be doing so on or around December 31st. Leadership should call them back from their extended vacation – after making the fixes to unemployment insurance permanent, they still have plenty of work to do to keep people safe and healthy, and address the economic devastation still rippling from our national failure to effectively deal with the virus.”    

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Whitmer and her administration have worked around the clock to ensure benefits for Michiganders who have lost work because of the virus. Since March 15, Governor Whitmer’s administration has paid over $25 billion in benefits to 2.2 million workers. 

One of the first actions Governor Whitmer took during the pandemic was to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits to workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised, and first responders who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. Under the governor’s leadership, Michigan was one of the first states to begin issuing the additional $600 pandemic benefit from the U.S. government. 

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