With more than 180,000 Michigan residents in line to lose their federal jobless benefits, Governor-elect Rick Snyder isn’t saying if he’ll push for an extension when he travels to Washington D.C. this week.
Extended unemployment benefits start running out Tuesday for an estimated 2 million Americans after Congress failed to approve an extension Tuesday.
Congressional opponents of extending the benefits any further say fiscal responsibility should come first. Republicans in the House and Senate, along with a handful of conservative Democrats, say they’re open to extending benefits, but not if it means adding to the $13.8 trillion national debt.
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The benefits average $310 per week nationwide. On Saturday, Michigan stopped taking new extended unemployment benefit applications because Congress has failed to renew the program.
Without an extension, 181,500 Michigan residents will stop getting unemployment checks in the next five months. Around 336,000 state residents now draw state or federal jobless benefits.
Michigan has the nation’s second-highest jobless rate at 12.8 percent, and an alliance of business owners and union leaders sent letters to Michigan’s congressional delegation Tuesday urging them to extend the benefits.
“Aside from the direct human cost, Michigan’s economy would benefit with an infusion of billions of dollars. This money will be a great help to the unemployed workers and to the businesses they support,” said the letter signed by Chrysler Group Senior Vice President Nancy Rae, Michigan State AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney, ITH Staffing President Sharon Miller and United Auto Workers Vice President James Settles.
Snyder, among the new governors scheduled to be briefed at the White House on Thursday about homeland security issues, wouldn’t say if he would follow Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s example and urge Congress to extend the jobless benefits, despite the plea from the Economic Alliance for Michigan.
“Congress is struggling with that, the president’s struggling with it, given the budget deficits they face,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We’re truly suffering in this economy, and there are people in need. And there’s a balancing act of what government can afford.”
Snyder was among more than a dozen GOP governors meeting Wednesday with top Republicans – including Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming House Speaker John Boehner – to discuss spending cuts, job creation and repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.