Gov. Rick Snyder Signs Bill Cutting Michigan Unemployment Benefits

Governor Rick Snyder today signed a bill that will make Michigan the only state in the nation to offer less than 26 weeks of regular unemployment insurance benefits.  The bill reduces the maximum duration of state benefits from the national standard of 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

Originally, the bill was designed to simply continue federally-funded Extended Benefits for eligible unemployed workers who have exhausted regular state and federal emergency benefits during their job searches.  But, prior to being passed, it was amended to include the reduction in future state benefits.  In a telling omission, the Governor's statement announcing the bill signing failed to mention the state benefit cuts.

This afternoon, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, released the following statement in response to Governor Snyder's action:

Governor Snyder has traded away six weeks of unemployment benefits for all newly unemployed workers in 2012 under the guise of helping long-term jobless workers in 2011.  We are extremely disappointed that Governor Snyder has justified his decision to sign H.B. 4408 as the only alternative to avoid hurting approximately 35,000 individuals currently on Extended Benefits in Michigan. 

So far in 2011, eleven states have made the same technical change required to continue Extended Benefits without making other changes that will hurt workers.  A veto by Governor Snyder could have forced the legislature to pass clean legislation fixing the Extended Benefits program, as was passed in other states.

Left unsaid by Governor Snyder when signing this bill is that Michigan jobless workers filing claims after January 15, 2012, will receive up to six weeks less in unemployment benefits due to amendments in this bill.  There is no valid reason why keeping federally financed Extended Benefits in place in Michigan should require a permanent reduction in the 26 weeks of unemployment benefits paid. 

The governor’s actions today mean that Michigan will be the only state in the nation paying less than 26 weeks for their maximum duration of benefits.  Michigan has paid 26 weeks of benefits since 1954.

Before signing the bill, the governor had received more than six thousand email messages urging him to veto it and demand that the legislature send him a stand-alone Extended Benefits reauthorization.  Instead, the governor chose to allow unneeded, unwarranted and harmful cuts to the state's unemployment insurance system to be signed into law.  As a result, Michigan will now provide the fewest weeks of state benefits, while having the longest stretch of double-digit unemployment in the nation.  The maximum 20 weeks of state unemployment benefits will be only half as long as the average duration of unemployment in Michigan.  No wonder Governor Snyder failed to mention these cuts in his announcement today.

 

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