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Michigan lawmakers considering end to $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit

Measure to end the benefit passed the Michigan House and remains under consideration in the Senate
Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 4:02 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan may stop paying out the $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit under bills advancing in the State Legislature.

The Michigan House passed the bill last week in a near party-line vote, so it moved to the Michigan Senate for consideration.

Michigan’s top unemployment pay currently is $662 per week including the $300 federal payment, which is scheduled to end in September. That equates to about $16.55 per hour for unemployed workers based on a 40-hour week.

Business leaders have criticized the money for incentivizing workers to stay home, leaving employers with too few employees.

“When you are paying folks $17 an hour to stay home and not go to work, it’s very difficult for our businesses to find people that are interested in going back to work,” said Republican State Rep. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain.

Democrats say the $300 weekly payment is a lifeline for workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are unable to re-enter the workforce.

“This is the difference between having a roof over your head or an eviction,” said Democrat State Rep. Yousef Rabhi of Ypsilanti.

Many Democrats argue that ending the federal benefit early shows that lawmakers are more likely to help big companies than people.

“When it comes to $300 in the pocket of our residents to pay for their groceries and their diapers and their rent, we are going to be callous and harmless and take that money from them,” said Rabhi.

State Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette was one of two Democrats to vote with Republicans in support of ending the federal unemployment benefit early. She issued the following statement about her vote:

“With the Governor announcing that Michigan will reopen to full capacity on June 22nd, businesses continuing to raise wages to compete for labor, and with the majority of residents being vaccinated, all signs point to a strong economy that’s safe to bring everyone back to work. Additionally, our federal government is still providing tax credits, childcare funding, and rent assistance to those who need help. Michigan’s unemployment system will also continue. Having a strong workforce at full capacity right now will help curb inflation in the future by making sure supply can keep up with the demand for food and other products necessary for our everyday lives.”

So far, 26 states have agreed to stop giving the federal help before its September end date. Michigan’s latest unemployment rate is 5%, which falls below the current national jobless rate of 5.8%.

The Republican proposal still needs to be passed the GOP-controlled Senate.

For it to become law, it would also need to be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which appears unlikely. A spokesperson for the governor said last month that she has no plans of ending the extra $300 a week before September.

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