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    Do well in high school, score well on the ACT, get into a credible college and apply for a stable job offering desirable benefits. Our parents have preached this path since we were old enough to sit behind the wheel of a car. This notion may change in the near future with the introduction of three bills in the state legislature.

    In a recent report by the Michigan League of Human Services, more than half of Michigan's unemployed workers are not receiving unemployment benefits. Such misplaced workers may be allocated a portion of the $140 million in federal funding if approved by the state Senate. In addition, part-time workers may have access to new benefits if they are forced to leave a job for "compelling family reasons" including spousal relocation or abusive relationships (Gongwer News Service).

    The $140 million in federal money is a ‘spend it or lose it' scenario. If the state belates the decision for too long, Michigan and its unemployed workers will witness the Hailey's Comet of federal funding--here today, gone tomorrow. In addition to part-time and unemployed benefits, House Bill 4785 calls for compensating permanently laid-off workers involved in vocational training to prepare for high-demand jobs. Compensations include weekly benefits for every week of training (Michigan League for Human Services).

    In comparison to current conditions, Michigan workers must earn nearly $3,000 per calendar quarter to be considered for unemployment insurance. This amount (hourly) is similar to working a 30 hour week at a local clothing store. Although the MLHS reports that one-sixth of America's employees are part-time workers, Michigan restricts this group from collecting insurance benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 9.4 percent of Michigan citizens are unemployed and four-point-four percent of which remain uninsured. This same group encompasses 47 percent of the total unemployed, uninsured work-aged citizens. To counter this, three bills were recently proposed in the House of Representatives and passed with 100 percent of the votes. Senate Republicans have yet to take action on the legislation, leaving the Senate Democrats and thousands of unemployed workers nervous about the fate of insurance for thousands of Michigan residents.

    House Bill 4641 seeks to amend a 1936 law enabling individuals who leave work because of domestic violence to revive unemployed insurance benefits. HB 4786 provides benefits to part-time workers and access to unemployment insurance from the $140 million in potential federal aid. Lastly, HB 4785 provides unemployment insurance benefits to unemployed people reviving high-demand job training (Michigan League for Human Services).

    Senate Democrats addressed the legislation and the lack of action taken from their Republican colleagues. A new web site encourages Michigan constituents to contact their Republican Senators and advocate action in order to lock in the $140 million in federal funding before it heads back to Washington. With 100 percent of the House passing the legislation, unemployed and part-time workers are certainly anxious for similar results in the Senate.

     

    June 2009: Michigan League of Human Services: "Michigan Needs to Modernize Its Unemployment Insurance System"

     

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    About Us

    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Alyssa Firth

    Alyssa Firth is Employment Policy Fellow and correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. Alyssa is a Journalism student at Michigan State University.