News Column

45,000 Michiganders to Lose Jobless Benefits

December 13, 2013

Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

Dec. 13--WASHINGTON -- Some 45,000 Michiganders currently receiving unemployment checks through a federal program will lose them on the last week of December, with the U.S. House leaving town without making another extension.

Democrats in Congress -- U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin of Royal Oak chief among them -- had been clamoring loudly for another extension of what's known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or EUC, a program adding 14 to 47 additonal weeks of benefits after regular state benefits are exhausted.

But Republicans who control the House adjourned for the December break Thursday without passing what would have been the 13th extension of the program since 2009, with some saying the $25-billion cost of extending it is too high.

In Michigan, regular unemployment benefits and 36 available weeks of EUC had provided for a total of 56 weeks of benefits. Without the extension, no claims for EUC benefits will be paid after those filed for the week of Dec. 28 and only the state's maximum benefit of 20 weeks will be available.

Lynda Robinson of the state Unemployment Insurance Agency said Friday there were 44,889 Michiganders receiving EUC as of last month and that remains the best estimate of about how many people will lose those benefits at the end of December.

A notice of the expiration of the program is set to be mailed to beneficiaries next Wednesday.

After agreeing to past extensions, there had been growing sentiment among House Republicans that the EUC -- which has cost about $200 billion -- has failed to generate new jobs and may help to keep unemployment higher than it would otherwise be by putting upward pressure on wages.

"All this record-setting benefit spending has bought is the slowest recovery on record," said a report this fall from the House Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland.

Democrats say 1.3 million people nationally will lose their benefits under the program by the end of December and say they will continue to press House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders to pass an extension in 2014. But it may be a hard sell to Republicans, who say it's time to end what was supposed to be a temporary measure started in response to the 2008-09 recession.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration put out a report saying unemployment benefits remain one of best tools for stmulating the economy, however, and that letting it expire could hurt spending. The report said the national unemployment rate of 7% -- Michigan's was 9% in October -- is high enough to warrant continuing the extra benefits.

"Historically we have never, never ended these emergency provisions when long-term unemployment has been as high as it is today," Levin said on the House floor Thursday.


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Original headline: 45,000 in Michigan to lose unemployment benefits

Source: (c)2013 the Detroit Free Press

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