Bills in Michigan would cut unemployment benefits for thousands
Two bills pending before the Michigan House of Representatives that would diminish the unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of Michigan residents are drawing strong criticism from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for the unemployed.
The first bill, HB 4781, is sponsored by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, chairman of the House Commerce Committee. This bill would change the formula for determining the amount each recipient is eligible to receive in benefits. Currently the formula is based on the earnings for the highest quarter for the previous year; 4781 would change that to a 52-week average, reducing the benefits for anyone whose earnings vary during the year. It would also reduce the benefits from 53 percent of earnings to 47 percent.
The second bill, HB 4782, is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Haveman. This bill would make it easier for employers to deny unemployment benefits by rejecting not only those who were fired for misconduct, but those who were let go because they could not do the job, even if the reasons had nothing to do with willful actions by the employee.
The NELP responded strongly to these bills in a press release:
“As if it weren’t enough that Michiganders were hit earliest and hardest by the downturn, 2011 has become the most costly legislative session in Michigan’s history for workers and their families, between budget cuts, impending tax increases on working families and attacks on unemployment insurance. If it seems that Michigan families, students, and workers are getting a raw deal, it’s because they are. We call on the state legislature to vote down this most recent attempt to rub salt in the wounds of Michigan workers, as it will only hurt the economy and impede recovery,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, which has offices in Ann Arbor, New York, Oakland, Seattle and Washington, DC…
“This legislation is an across-the-board benefit reduction for low- and moderate-income earners. At a time when the legislature should be putting Michigan back to work, it is twisting the knife to make it even harder for people to get by while they look for jobs,” said Owens…
“Governor Snyder and state lawmakers already decided that businesses will no longer pay their fair share to maintain the state’s roads and bridges, to fund the legal system, or to invest in the state’s greatest asset—its children,” said Owens. “The effort to further punish beleaguered workers by attacking unemployment insurance once again is just another example of state lawmakers’ narrow-minded and myopic view of what is good for Michigan’s economy. Lawmakers interested in supporting the state’s economy should vote against these latest attacks on the unemployed and Michigan’s working families.”
The votes could come up for a vote as early as today in the Michigan House.