Tens of thousands of Michigan’s unemployed are hoping to hear some good news from Washington, where the House and Senate are expected to extend the unemployment benefits after letting them run out last month.Senate Republicans, after losing a vote Tuesday to try to block an extension of unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, are now forcing Democrats to wait the required 30 hours before a final vote.
The $34 billion bill restores jobless benefits for 2.5 million people who still can’t find work.
“[Republicans are] just burning time. Thirty hours of time,” said Michigan Senator, and Democrat, Debbie Stabenow. “And, in my judgement, it’s just mean,” she said.
Stabenow said this means it will now be early next week before benefit checks will be cut. Republicans say they’re not opposed to extending benefits, they just want to know how the Obama administration intends to pay for them.
Shaun Thomas of the Unemployment Insurance Agency in Michigan said there are over 70,000 unemployed Michigan workers whose benefits have been affected by the expiration of the federal extensions.
“Restoring those benefits to those individuals will put money in their pockets and money in the economy,” Thomas said.
Thomas said unemployed Michigan residents will be paid retroactively, so people in programs that have expired will receive back benefits.
The director of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Office Steven Geske said if you were getting checks before the last deadline in June, just keep doing what you’re doing.
“For the vast majority of people, it will be very simple for them; continue to call MARVIN or use MARVIN online on your regular appointment day,” Geske said. “So then they will get back in the stream and continue to receiving their benefits accordingly.”
Geske said those whose federal unemployment benefits were exhausted before the June deadline would not be eligible for this latest extension.
“We’ve heard a lot about this June 2nd deadline, it bumps this out to November 30th, so what that means to unemployed workers in this state, is if they were receiving state unemployment benefits now they have an opportunity to progress through the federal benefits that hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have been able to partake and continue to live on,” he said.
“The federal extensions put almost a quarter of a billion dollars into Michigan’s economy,” Geske said.
Those individuals will be spending those dollars quickly at grocery stores, gas stations, other retail establishments, and the owners and employees of those businesses will benefit indirectly, Geske said.
People were filing into the Michigan Works! Livonia Service Center Wednesday morning, like John Ludington, of Dearborn Heights, who arrived before the doors opened. Ludington said he was laid off as a truck driving school instructor after state retraining funds ran out.
He’s applying for unemployment for the first time and not very happy about that, but he’s glad for those whose jobless benefits ran out and will get their checks again.
“Well, what else is there? It’s not like there are jobs everywhere. These people are desperate, you have to do something,” Ludington said.
“If not, bring back some of the jobs out of Mexico and China, and put us back to work,” he said.
LaTanga Belfer, of Inskter, is also among the tens of thousands of Michigan’s unemployed left in a lurch.
“I’m relieved, I haven’t been able to find employment and it’s been a while, and so when they stopped the payments, I was like, ‘What am I gonna do now?'” Belfer said.
Although she’s glad to hear her jobless benefits are being restored, she said she’d rather see the job situation improve so she doesn’t have to go through the process of qualifying for benefits.
“It’s a good thing, but the payments are always off and on, you’re always being re-determined,” Belfer said. “So it’s kind of scary, you’re constantly worried about your income.”
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said it is crucial to enact the bill.
“We just have got to keep this safety net in place,” Levin said. “That’s what the Senate, in effect, did Tuesday, we got past the Republican filibuster and today we will adopt it by late evening.”
“We only need 50 votes once we get by that filibuster and then it’ll go back to the House and they will quickly approve it,” Levin said.
However, not everyone thinks the jobless benefits bill is a good idea.
Todd Palmer, owner of Diversified Industrial Staffing, based in Troy, said he’s having a hard time filling dozens of good benefit-paying jobs in the automotive to aerospace industry.
He said out-of-work job seekers tell him they don’t want to get off unemployment.
“They’re giving us a lot of creative excuses, such as ‘Well, I’ve paid into the unemployment system and I’m entitled to two years off,'” Palmer said.
“Anybody who knows it really, it’s an employer pay tax not an employee pay tax, and they’ve essentially paid nothing in,” Palmer said.
They’ve adjusted their lifestyle down to living at unemployment and they’re going to live on it as long as they can, he said.
Palmer said other excuses for not taking a job include wanting the summer off or not wanting to go back to work unless they’ll make the same amount as their previous job.
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