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Today on Stateside, frustrated Michiganders try to navigate an unemployment system overwhelmed by pandemic job losses. Plus, a Detroit festival celebrates the food of the African diaspora.

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Some financial relief is on the way for about 545,000 people in Michigan whose unemployment benefits abruptly ceased in December. 

The state of Michigan says it has now completed updates to its unemployment claims website to accommodate the additional federal aid. 

Courtesy of Commissioner Mai Xiong

Today on Stateside, the U.S. Senate has begun setting parameters for proceedings in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Senator Gary Peters talked to us about the upcoming trial and the likelihood of a conviction. Also, an update on Michigan's sobering job loss numbers during 2020. Plus, how a business owner, elected official, and mother of four balances the challenges the pandemic poses for women—particularly women of color.

Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Lab

Michigan is struggling to bring back clean energy jobs. That sector has lost more than 22,000 jobs in the state since the pandemic began.

November numbers show Michigan regained only 215 clean energy jobs.

The entire sector across the country has taken a hit because of the pandemic.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Michigan’s unemployment rate ticked up by eight-tenths of a percentage point last month to 6.9%.

This is the first time since April the state has reported an increase in lost jobs.

Michigan State University Professor Charles Ballard is an expert on the state’s economy. He says the numbers show COVID-19’s effect on jobs.

Minimum wage workers in Michigan likely won’t see a pay increase in January, thanks to a provision in the state’s wage law.

In 2018, the state passed a law setting minimum wage increases each year starting January 1. But the increase can only take effect if the annual unemployment rate for the state is below 8.5%.

courtesy of The Right Place, Inc.

West Michigan economic development officials say they helped recruit or retain 953 jobs to the region in 2020. That’s even as the area lost about 40,000 jobs overall.

The Right Place, Inc. presented its annual update and forecast on Thursday. The economic development group says it secured $105.6 million in new capital investment for the region this year. It highlighted a decision by Perrigo to locate its new North American headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, a move that's expected to bring 170 jobs downtown.

Back in early spring, Khristan Yates worked as a quality assurance analyst at a marketing company and loved her job. "I had one of the best jobs of my career," recalls Yates, 31, a resident of Chicago.

Yates, who's a mother of two children, had moved into a bigger apartment just before the pandemic hit because she wanted to give her kids more space. At the time, she felt like she was "at the top of her world."

But as the economic effects of the pandemic hit the marketing industry among others, she lost her job in May.

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It’s a laborless Labor Day for many Michiganders as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shutter businesses across the state.

The spectre of a second spike in cases has many concerned about another spike in unemployment claims.

If there's another spike in jobless claims tied to COVID-19, the head of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency says his department will be ready.

Director Steve Gray testified last week before a special joint legislative committee on the state's response to the coronavirus.

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has directed Michigan's unemployment insurance agency to apply for federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week to boost state benefits. 

The benefit is coming from FEMA's $44 billion disaster relief fund.

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Today on Stateside, Senate Republicans have developed a proposal for COVID stimulus that would, most notably, reduce unemployment benefits from the federal government from $600 a week to $200 a week. We talk about the pushback and potential consequences. Plus, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. Will fine dining survive?

Dan kildee
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The clock is ticking on federal unemployment benefits. While states provide most of the money, the federal government has been kicking in $600 extra in monthly payments. 

Senate Republicans have developed a proposal for COVID stimulus that would, most notably, reduce the federal unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200 a week. Democrats in the House say that's a non starter. Represntative Dan Kildee, Democrat representing Michigan's 5th congressional district joined Stateside to discuss the proposals. 

Unemployment office sign
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The state of Michigan says it has met an internal goal to clear out a serious backlog of claims that were filed between March 15 and May 1.

The state's Unemployment Insurance Agency is dealing with a historically high number of people filing for benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession. The agency is also dealing with large numbers of fraudsters using stolen identification to file false claims.

$100 bills
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Michiganders waiting months on state unemployment claims should soon have an answer.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency is pledging to process the remaining nearly 12,000 claims filed before May 1 by July 4.

unemployement insurance form on a clipboard
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The state unemployment agency says the number of people waiting to have claims processed is growing. The agency says the backlog is largely due to suspected instances of fraud.

As the COVID-19 crisis has spurred furloughs and layoffs, complaints from people waiting for their jobless benefits have grown.

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Michigan’s unemployment rate remains high, but it’s getting better.

The state’s May unemployment rate was 21.8%.  That’s down 2.8 percentage points from the previous month. Construction, transportation and utilities sectors saw job increases last month.

Money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Legislators grilled the head of the Unemployment Insurance Agency about why some people still are not receiving benefits. Steve Gray, director of the agency, gave a short presentation about how it is dealing with the 1.7 million applications for benefits that have been filed since March 15.

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.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday that Michigan factories will soon be allowed to resume operations. This is good news for the thousands of auto workers who will now be brought back on the line. But as we've heard this week, it's not a simple process. There are two equally critical aspects of reopening the economy—public health and financial stability.

a farmhouse standing behind a row of crops
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Today on Stateside, we check in on Michigan’s farm scene and see how food producers are doing amid the pandemic. Plus, how the state unemployment office is handling a huge surge in the number of people applying for benefits.

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Starting Monday, Michiganders who are self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors and other low income workers who’ve lost work because of COVID-19 can apply for special unemployment benefits.

More than 800,000 Michiganders have applied for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state in mid-March. But people who are self-employed and some low income workers have faced obstacles.

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Applications for unemployment in Michigan took another huge jump last week. 384,844 people filed first-time claims. The U.S. Department of Labor’s newly released report revised numbers for the previous week, indicating more than 304,000 Michiganders filed for unemployment during that period.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Last week, Congress passed the CARES act, a $2 trillion stimulus package intended to provide relief to communities and workers impacted by the new coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to that bill, Governor Gretchen Whitmer was able to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, 1099 independent contractors, and gig and low-wage workers.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Nearly 130,000 Michiganders filed claims for unemployment insurance last week, dwarfing the amount of claims in the state at the peak of the great recession.

a teacher at community high talking to kids
Courtesy of Donald Harrison

Today on Stateside, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered most of the state to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But what does that mean for those who don't have a home? We hear about the challenges facing the state's homeless shelters. Plus, a new documentary tracks the history of what is probably Michigan’s most famous alternative high school, sometimes cheekily referred to as "Commie High." 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The unemployment rate is rising because people are losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are new jobs opening up.

Retailers Wal-Mart and Amazon are looking for temporary workers. Fast food delivery services are hiring. Some pharmacies and medical supply companies need workers. Big chain supermarkets need people to keep the shelves stocked. In some cases small businesses are hiring too.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s jobless rate is hanging below 4 percent.

Michigan’s November unemployment rate remained unchanged from the previous month at 3.9 percent.  The nation’s jobless rate was also flat last month.

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Michigan's unemployment rate in January was unchanged from the 4.7 percent rate recorded in December.

Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan's January jobless rate was six-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.1 percent, but three-tenths of a percentage point below the state's January 2016 rate of 5 percent.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The economy is booming and the unemployment rates for the nation and Michigan are low. In Detroit, the official rate has fallen dramatically since peaking at more than 28% in 2009.

But the rate that’s often cited only tells part of the story.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s unemployment rate ticked up last month.

The number of people with jobs increased in Michigan in November (up 11,000).   But so did the number of people without jobs  (up 6,000).

The result of an expanding workforce is a one-tenth of one percent increase in the state jobless rate to 4.6%.

It’s the fourth straight monthly increase.  However, last month’s unemployment rate was still a half percentage point lower than November 2016.

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