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Lawmakers want to discuss the future of Michigan's jobless benefits

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio

Some Democratic state lawmakers and activists say now is the time to permanently extend and expand unemployment benefits in Michigan.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a million Michiganders have applied for unemployment benefits. The state is expanding jobless benefits during the pandemic.

But State Representative Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) says the COVID-19 crisis revealed problems with the current system.

“It just really puts the microscope on how our unemployment insurance agency is now structured,” says Sabo.

HB 4894 & 4895 would permanently expand regular jobless benefits to 26 weeks and increase the amount of money people could receive.   

A spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield says he “is willing to look at any idea that can help address the current situation.”

But he says Chatfield will let the Commerce Committee take the first look and vet and improve the proposal.

Ryan Bates with Michigan United says lawmakers should move beyond the current crisis.

“It’s not enough to get back to normal. Normal wasn’t good enough for too many people in this society,” says Bates.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.