Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday vetoed a GOP-backed bill that would have prevented the state from handing out the additional $ 300 federal weekly unemployment benefits made available due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the governor hinted at his willingness to end the allowance in exchange for lawmakers increasing the amount of money unemployed people typically receive.
After:Michigan House votes to end weekly $ 300 unemployment bonus
After:Exemptions for applicants asked to re-qualify for unemployment benefits could arrive by Monday
In theory, the bill prevented the state from distributing additional pandemic relief after July. As Whitmer noted in his veto letter, because lawmakers did not get enough votes for the bill to immediately become law, it would not have taken effect until next year anyway.
Whitmer also argued in his letter that even though the bill took effect immediately, it violated federal law because Michigan failed to give the Federal Department of Labor the required 30 days notice before canceling the benefits. .
These are some of the problems with the measure, she said, also noting that without the extra help, a Michigan worker receives no more than $ 362 per week.
“It’s just not enough money for a family to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads,” Whitmer said.
“In summary, I am open to the early elimination of the enhanced (unemployment) benefit if this legislature quickly allocates federal funds for childcare and increases the (unemployment) benefit proportionally to that of neighboring states. ”
Michigan’s maximum unemployment benefit ranks last, both in face amount and as a percentage of the state’s average weekly wage, compared to other Midwestern states, according to a recent report by the Michigan League for Public Policy. The maximum amount of benefits paid by the State has been the same since 2002.
House and Senate Republicans decided in June to end the additional benefits on the same day Whitmer’s administration rolled back most of the remaining pandemic restrictions.
“You can’t get back to normal in our state without the workers going back to their jobs,” said Representative Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan at the time.
“Companies have already done everything humanly possible to attract people to work, but people have been honest and just said they are making too much money on unemployment to come back.”
Since federal funds end in about six weeks and lawmakers remain on summer recess, the chances of prematurely terminating benefits are very low.
After:Michigan unemployment rate remained unchanged in June at 5%
After:Governor Whitmer unveils $ 1.4 billion plan to expand affordable child care with federal funds
At the start of the pandemic, the federal government approved an additional weekly unemployment benefit of $ 300. Recently, short-staffed business leaders across the state said the money was discouraging potential employees from coming to work.
State experts argue that there are other factors preventing people from returning to work, including child care and fears of catching COVID-19. Whitmer and lawmakers recently announced a plan to use about $ 1.4 billion in federal pandemic assistance to bolster the state’s child care industry.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser criticized the veto.
“Paying people to stay home and not work while running around the state touting its commitment to small business is the height of hypocrisy,” Weiser said in a statement.
The governor also previously announced plans to use the funds as an incentive for employers to bring back workers, highlighting a work-sharing program that allows employees to earn wages and unemployment for several weeks.
The measure passed by the legislature would have prevented the state from using the additional unemployment benefits for this work-sharing program.
Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.