Tens of thousands have been cut off from the benefits they earned.
A study released this week found that the Michigan legislature’s cuts to unemployment insurance have meant a loss of benefits for 14,000 to 32,000 Michiganders a week. (full disclosure here, one of the study’s authors is a personal friend, and has been a client on other issues).
For those who may have missed it at the time, Governor Snyder and the legislature shortened the period the short-term jobless can collect unemployment from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, along with reducing eligibility and making it easier for employers to contest claims. And this was during a period where the national unemployment rate has remained high, and Michigan’s jobless rate one of the highest in the nation.
In a nice little bit of understatement, the study released Wednesday points out that denying unemployment benefits to these workers…
…could have adverse effects both on Michigan’s economy and on the well-being of unemployed workers and their families.
And of course it has adverse effects. Our economy has still not recovered to the point where everyone who wants to work can find a job, and unemployment benefits can mean the difference between paying the mortgage vs. foreclosure, or food on the table vs. hunger. And if those workers had been collecting unemployment, nearly every dollar of their benefits would have gone right back into the local economy.
But what the MLive story doesn’t point out, which we should when we are talking about this issue, is that unemployment is earned, not given. You only qualify for it if you recently had a job. Your benefits are proportional to what you made at your last job. And they are paid for through an insurance program your employer pays into on your behalf. Taking away unemployment benefits is not only harmful to the families affected, but it’s taking away part of our social contract and safety net that the affected workers have been paying for.
The legislature should restore Michigan’s unemployment insurance programs to the 26 weeks most states cover. And for any political folks who are nervous about how this plays with the public, Unemployment continues to top lists of the public’s concerns, and a majority favors making unemployment benefits longer, not shorter.