Republican lawmakers voted Thursday to stop a $300 weekly federal supplement that is added to unemployed workers’ benefits in Michigan, though the measure is expected to be vetoed when it reaches Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The GOP-controlled Senate passed the bill on party lines, 19-16, after making a change to the measure that cleared the House last week. It would require the $300 pandemic benefit to end July 31.
Supporters have said the supplement, which is on top of the maximum state benefit of $362 a week, discourages people from rejoining the workforce. It is due to cease Sept. 4 under federal law. About half of states, nearly all of them with Republican governors, have opted to end the extra benefit early.
“It doesn’t make any sense for the federal government to pay people not to work when we’ve moving moving the state back to normal,” Rep. Beth Griffin, a Mattawan Republican, said last week, days before Michigan’s COVID-19 capacity restrictions and mask requirements were lifted.
Whitmer, however, has said a lack of child care is a bigger barrier to filling jobs and wants to expand a state “workshare” program so employers can hire new workers who, while working, would still get the $300 weekly benefit.
“This isn’t the time to be taking money away from people who are struggling to find work,” Democratic Sen. Paul Wojno, of Warren, said Thursday.
Interest groups applauded and criticized the legislative vote.
“Retailers have waited over a year to operate at 100% capacity but need employees to help meet that demand,” said William Hallan, president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association.
But the Michigan AFL-CIO called it a political stunt, noting that even if the governor signed the bill, the change would not occur until 2022 because Democrats did not agree to give it immediate effect.
“The Legislature should be working to make sure every Michigander shares in the gains from” the state’s economic and fiscal recovery, “not launching attacks on people who were hit hardest… and trying to ship unemployment aid funds back to Washington, D.C.,” said president Ron Bieber. (AP)