Let’s prevent another unemployment benefits drama

March 5, 2010

Peter Ruark

Just when we thought things could not get any worse for Michigan workers, actions by one U.S. senator nearly resulted in 135,000 of our state’s unemployed workers losing all of their Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits at the end of this month.

Earlier this week Michigan’s unemployed breathed a sigh of relief as the Congress extended and the president signed a one-month extension. This ensures that the checks will keep coming through April 5, but Congress will need to pass a much longer extension very soon to prevent this kind of scenario from playing out again.

The reason that so many unemployed workers were put at risk was that most of the additional weeks of UI that a worker can receive (after exhausting the 26 weeks of “Basic UI”) are funded fully by the federal government through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

Long-term unemployed Michigan workers can receive up to 99 total weeks of unemployment through the Recovery Act if they need it. Congress needed to renew the legislation at the end of 2009 to keep the funding in place without interruption to workers’ benefits. Few expected the legislation not to be renewed, but the extension that was passed at the end of 2009 was a temporary measure, covering only through the end of February.

The current extension, as mentioned before, expires on April 5—only a month away!  The Michigan League for Human Services, along with many other state and national groups, is urging Congress to take immediate action to pass an extension of Recovery Act UI funds through the end of this year.

Giving temporary aid to workers as they look for jobs is not only the right thing to do for those workers, it also helps to stimulate the economy and save jobs because those workers spend a large part of their unemployment benefits locally.

There is enough to be nervous about in Michigan right now. Let’s not add to the stress and uncertainty by risking another drama in the U.S. Senate at the expense of our unemployed workers. Congress needs to ensure Unemployment Insurance stability and pass a long-term extension now. This would be a good time to call your representative in Congress and urge support of an extension through the end of the year.  To find contact information, click here.

(Note: If you are receiving Unemployment Insurance, there will be no break in the payment of your benefits. All you need to do at this time is to continue to report either by phone or online to MARVIN biweekly at your scheduled time.)

— Peter Ruark