LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants the state Legislature to pass a permanent extension of unemployment benefits as residents continue to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
During her Tuesday COVID-19 briefing, Whitmer said Michigan’s benefits are in the bottom third in the nation and the lowest in the Great Lakes region.
“I also urged the Legislature to pass a permanent extension of unemployment benefits,” Whitmer said. “On the heels of the last recession, the Legislature cut workers’ economic lifeline from 26 to 20 weeks and let inflation whittle away the $362 maximum weekly benefit.”
Michigan unemployment: Residents returning to unemployment should reopen previous claims
In the fall, Michigan passed legislation that extended Michigan’s COVID-19 unemployment benefits until the end of 2020. Whitmer wants another extension, saying House Democrats have already drafted bills to do so.
“Just yesterday, they invited the Republican colleagues to join forces with them to protect unemployed Michiganders,” Whitmer said. “If we don’t take this bipartisan action now, thousands of Michiganders who are unemployed could lose benefits right after the holiday.”
In October, Senate Bills 886 and 991 codified part of Whitmer’s orders that expanded unemployment benefits to Michiganders. The bills were sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth).
Michigan looks to overhaul unemployment office
The state of Michigan is looking to overhaul its unemployment office after the director’s sudden resignation.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan unemployment office has worked through significant issues.
The UIA has been flooded with calls, as more than 2 million Michigan residents have applied for benefits since the start of the pandemic. Early on, problems with the system made the process difficult for many people.
The system couldn’t keep up with demand, and many people were frustrated. They couldn’t get in touch with an agency and, as a result, struggled to get the help they needed.
UIA Director Steve Gray tried to answer questions from lawmakers, but now he is out. He resigned last month.
Insiders told Local 4′s Help Me Hank that Gray’s departure was planned, and it now gives the state a chance to rebrand the agency and start fresh.