Michigan Senate joins House in voting to end $300 federal jobless benefit
Lansing — The Michigan Senate approved a bill Thursday that would opt the state out of federal unemployment programs that bring an additional $300 weekly benefit for those who've lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Michigan House voted for the proposal last week and concurred 59-49 late Thursday on the Senate-approved bill. So the vote from the GOP-led Senate means the proposal will likely soon land on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk. Whitmer is expected to veto it.
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The bill passed the Senate 19-16, along party lines.
The federal unemployment programs are currently set to end Sept. 4. The bill approved by the Senate attempts to impose a July 31 cutoff. At least 25 states have already set early ends to the extended unemployment benefits, according to the nonpartisan state House Fiscal Agency.
Republicans contend the proposal is needed to encourage residents to rejoin the workforce as state restrictions on gatherings and masks have lifted and coronavirus infection rates have declined. A statement last week from Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan, said the fact that the $300 addition to unemployment benefits meant recipients could get up to $662 a week was "an incentive for many to stay on unemployment."
"Unemployment is supposed to be a temporary measure providing temporary help to people who need it," Griffin said. "Today, there are thousands of jobs available in Michigan.
"Now is the time, for those who are able, to help themselves and our entire state return to normalcy by returning to work."
The Michigan AFL-CIO labeled Thursday's vote a "stunt" in a statement, noting that the proposal wouldn't take effect until March 2022 because the Senate's separate vote on giving the bill a quicker effective date failed.
"It's going to take our entire country some time to recover from the wreckage caused by the former president's refusal to take the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seriously, so in the meantime, Republicans should stop trying to take money out of the pockets of folks who are unemployed through no fault of their own," said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Whitmer has suggested the $300 per week go to employees returning to jobs — a benefit currently available only to employees in a workshare program.
Michigan's unemployment rate has decreased steadily since a record high of 22.7% in April 2020 to about 5% in May 2021. But some employers have voiced frustration in recent weeks with their ability to find workers to fill positions.
Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.