Levin (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Washington — House Democrats say more than 1.6 million people have lost emergency unemployment benefits since they expired in late December — including more than 56,000 in Michigan.
Democrats and the White House again Friday urged Republicans to extend the benefits that had been in place since 2008. House GOP leaders have said they would consider doing so if a corresponding amount of budget cuts were made to pay for the program’s extension.
President Barack Obama is expected to call Tuesday for an extension in his State of the Union Address. In January, about 300,000 people lost benefits who would have been eligible.
When the benefits expired, nearly 44,000 people in Michigan immediately lost benefits and now 56,619 have lost benefits — meaning nearly 13,000 more saw their unemployments benefits expire this month — ahead of when they would have expired under the program.
“The harmful impact of failing to renew emergency unemployment insurance continues to spread across the nation,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Since 2008, 24 million people have received $252 billion in emergency benefits, according to a GOP study released in October. The report said the program, “which has already added too much to the deficit, and helped keep unemployment too high for too long — should be allowed to finally come to an end.”
Unemployed people in Michigan are now eligible for 20 weeks of unemployment, down from the 57 weeks of total unemployment — including 37 weeks under the federal program — that were most recently available. Michigan offers among the lowest number of weeks of unemployment benefits in the United States.
If Congress doesn’t act to reinstate the program, this year another 3.6 million people, including 145,000 more people in Michigan, will lose benefits, the White House estimates.
States with the highest unemployment rates — such as Michigan — were initially eligible to grant workers up to 99 weeks of benefits between state and federal programs.
During this time in May 2010, The Detroit News reported that landscaping companies found some job applicants rejected work offers so they could continue collecting unemployment benefits.