Time running out for federal unemployment funds

Added June 16th, 2011 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Michigan’s House and Senate seem determined to leave $139 million in federal dollars on the table rather than help more unemployed workers receive temporary benefits as they look for work.

That is the amount of money that Michigan will receive to shore up its Unemployment Insurance trust fund if it undertakes at least two modernizations that expand eligibility for benefits. Legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Ananich would make two of the changes that would enable Michigan to qualify for the money. There is plenty of support for the bill, but it is stalled in committee.

The Legislature has had more than two years to act on this, and the deadline of Aug. 22 is approaching quickly. That’s 10 weeks from now, but the Legislature will break for summer vacation at the end of June.

Here is how it works: the federal Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act  offers states the incentive payment if states undertake certain reforms that make it easier for unemployed workers to receive benefits. Michigan has already adopted one change known as the Alternative Base Period, enabling the state to receive one-third of the total available payment ($69.4 million).

To receive the other $139 million, Michigan needs to adopt at least two of the four modernizations:

1) Make benefits available to unemployed workers who worked part time and are looking for only part-time work (27 states do this).
2) Make additional weeks of benefits available to permanently laid-off workers participating in relevant occupational training (12 states do this).
3) Make benefits available to workers who voluntarily leave their jobs for a “compelling family reason,” the definition of which must include:
• Following a spouse who has moved to a job in another location (24 states do this)
• Because of domestic violence (30 states and the District of Columbia do this)
• Caring for sick or disabled family members (21 states do this)
4) Pay an additional weekly child or dependent allowance of at least $15 as part of a Unemployment Insurance check (six states do this).

The Ananich bill (HB 4166) would enact 1 and 2 above. In addition to helping more Michigan workers and their families, these changes would be good for Michigan’s businesses, since workers tend to spend a large amount of their benefits at local businesses such as supermarkets and clothing retailers.

Michigan is behind the curve on this, as 33 states have already made the changes necessary to receive full funding. It makes no sense to drag our feet on this and let the deadline pass.

Michigan legislators, it is urgent that you pass the Ananich bills or craft and pass other bills that will enable our state to receive this money. And please do this by the end of June before you break for summer, so that Michigan can make the deadline.

For more information, please see the resource page of the National Employment Law Project.

— Peter Ruark 

One Response to “Time running out for federal unemployment funds”

  1. […] the League discussed in a recent blog, the state had three years to make certain modernizations to its program to become eligible for the […]

Leave a Reply