Almost 1M Michiganders will get a boost in jobless benefits

Feds OK state application to provide additional $300 per week

By: - August 22, 2020 6:01 am

Mark Walker fills out an application at a job fair at the Matrix Center April 23, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. | Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Friday approved the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) application. The measure will provide an additional $300 per week payment to Michiganders receiving unemployment benefits. 

The UIA estimates that under the FEMA program, about 910,000 Michiganders would receive at least $300 per week in supplemental benefits. The program allows for existing Unemployment Trust Fund payments delivered by Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance to count as 25% matching funds required for participation. Eligible claimants will be paid benefits retroactive to Aug. 1. 

It is unclear at this time how long funding for the program will last. 

“This is good news for the thousands of Michiganders who are still without work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still a short term band aid that falls short of what’s needed,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “We need the president, [U.S. Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Congress to put partisanship aside and pass a bipartisan recovery package that will help us save lives and get people back on their feet. Michigan families, frontline workers, and small business owners are counting on the federal government to do the right thing and work together on their behalf.”

Whitmer is referring to the U.S. House-passed HEROES Act. The measure would provide $3 trillion in federal COVID-19-related relief. Led by McConnell, the Senate GOP has countered with a $1 trillion proposal that did not include aid for state and local governments left reeling from COVID-19. 

Michigan is facing a $3 billion deficit for its next budget year that starts on Oct. 1. The state’s budget is roughly $60 billion.

President Trump initially touted the action as providing $400 in weekly jobless benefits. But as the Advance previously reported, states would be responsible for $100 and the federal government would contribute $300. Many governors in cash-strapped states indicated they might not be able to fund the $100 contribution.

Under the federal CARES Act, passed after the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the country, unemployed people received a $600 weekly boost, which expired last month. The HEROES Act would continue the $600 payment.

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in July was 8.7%, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The June rate was 14.8%. The national jobless rate is higher than Michigan’s for July at 10.2%.

“Michigan has now recovered about half of the coronavirus-related job cuts, that occurred in March and April 2020,” said Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.

However, there are signs of an economic slowdown. July payroll jobs in Michigan rose by 103,000, but this was well below the 266,000 jobs added in the month of June.

At this time, jobless claimants do not have to take any action to receive the additional benefit amount provided by the program. The additional benefits will be added automatically for all claimants who are eligible to receive at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefit payments. This includes claimants receiving any type of regular unemployment insurance benefits as well as those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits. 

“This additional $300 a week will provide some much needed support to those who are still struggling to make ends meet during this time of extreme need,” said Steve Gray, UIA director. “Our goal now is to work as quickly as possible to implement this new program to get people the benefits they need.” 

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) called the development “welcomed news.” 

“These funds will ensure folks who are still out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic have the support they need, and I thank the Trump administration for swiftly approving Michigan’s request,” Mitchell said. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.