Unemployment Insurance continues to be a big issue facing Michigan workers, businesses and policymakers, and remains a big issue area for the League and our resident workforce expert and Senior Policy Analyst Peter Ruark.
In the past few months, Peter has produced a report on pressing state UI reforms and bills currently before the Michigan Legislature to address them, written blogs on the current labor “shortage” and ways to improve (not weaken) the state UI system, shared his insights on UI issues on an episode of the League’s Yeas and Nays weekly policy update, and participated in a panel discussion with Bridge Michigan and former Lt. Gov. and current President of the Small Business Association of Michigan Brian Calley.
We hope you will take a look at this information and learn more about how you can help influence improvements to Unemployment Insurance in Michigan. And while the above information is all still very relevant, the unemployment landscape is ever-changing for Michigan workers and their families, and we also wanted to update you on some more recent issues that have been in the news lately.
Here’s a rundown of some other UI developments happening in Michigan right now.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently vetoed the bill halting the $300 in federal Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) at the end of July. This legislation would not have gone into effect until long after the FPUC program ended anyway, but the League opposed eliminating the additional federal unemployment funds and we appreciate the governor’s veto of this bill.
Gov. Whitmer also signed a bill requiring Unemployment Insurance claimants to register with Michigan Works. The League opposed the original bill as written because it would have set a three-week time limit for claimants to register, without allowances made for emergency situations. The bill signed into law eliminates the three-week time window, and also allows workers temporarily laid off due to a manufacturing shutdown to continue to receive unemployment benefits without looking for a new job. Under current law, workers laid off more than 45 days ago are not eligible for a work search waiver. The new law recognizes that, in the manufacturing context, certain events triggering a temporary layoff like an equipment retooling, a parts shortage, or a temporary production volume adjustment, can last more than 45 days.
And finally, because the federal government issued unclear guidelines for emergency UI benefits during the early days of the pandemic, benefits were paid to some Michigan claimants who were later told they were ineligible. Gov. Whitmer has said that she will request waivers for legitimate claims that were approved according to the federal guidelines and then later deemed ineligible. The UIA has assured Michigan residents that most claimants will not need to attest to their eligibility, and that no claimant who filed in good faith will be required to repay the benefits they received.
While the political debate on UI benefits unfortunately rages on, the League continues to lift up the importance of the unemployment system as a safety net for workers who are struggling to find a job—and not an impediment to businesses finding workers. And while actual UI fraud is unacceptable, the state must be careful to separate out unintentional or inadvertent mistakes from intentional deception.