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Monday, March 28, 2011

Gov. Snyder, despite calls for veto bill from Democrats, Republicans, signs HB 4408, reducing jobless benefits from 26 to 20 weeks

Photo Credit-Recall Rick Snyder for
 Michigan Facebook Page
On March 23rd, Michigan's GOP Senate leadership a bill to make a technical change to the state's unemployment insurance program. The change was necessary to ensure that Michigan’s long-term unemployed job seekers receive federally funded extended unemployment benefits.

In contrast, what can be best described as a slap in the face to those seeking work, state Republicans lawmakers took the opportunity to amend that bill HB 4408 to include a permanent change to state-paid unemployment benefits in Michigan. 

The benefits weeks are now reduced from 26 to 20, making Michigan the first state in the nation to do so. It is unknown how the efforts to pass the federal extension of HR-589, The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Bill by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), to give 14 additional weeks to long-term job seekers will be impacted by Snyder's actions in signing this bill.

Democrats and other worker advocacy organizations decried the move and called on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the bill and send it back to the legislature, in an effort to pass only the change needed for workers to continue receiving federal benefits. Despite the outcry, has signed the bill this afternoon., the grassroots online campaign and informational portal project of the National Employment Law Project, posted an "Action Alert" via its’ website and by e-mail, asking for Michigan workers to send an email to Snyder asking him to veto the bill. More than 5,000 people participated. 

Both Michigan Rep. Sander Levin and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow joined state Democrats in calling on the governor to veto the bill.

"Gov. Snyder’s decision to sign this reckless measure cutting the lifeline for Michigan’s unemployed will reverberate for years in Michigan,” Representative Levin stated. In signing this bill, the governor has tried to distract Michiganders from the full story, seeking to portray legislation that includes a drastic and permanent cut as a ‘protection’ for the unemployed. 

"Republicans hijacked a simple technical change to extend 100 percent federally funded benefits this year and gave Michigan the dubious distinction of becoming the only state in the union with 20 weeks of state unemployment insurance. This would affect hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Michiganders in the future," Levin noted.

Senator Stabenow followed up Rep. Levin's statement, in her press release.

"Michigan should not become the only state in the country to inflict this additional pain on families already struggling to stay above water and get back to work.  I urge Governor Snyder to veto this bill and instead work to make the simple technical correction needed to ensure Michigan receives the same federal benefits as other states," Stabenow noted.

Surprising, even Republican Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson chimed in to express alarm about the bill over the weekend.

"I'd be very careful before I cut benefits to people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the unemployment line," Patterson said. "I guarantee you that people I know who are unemployed would much rather be back at work."

Unfortunately, state workers who lose their jobs in the future will be hurt by Snyder's action with signing the bill. Still Snyder was undeterred by those calls as he signed the bill this afternoon, without noting the benefit week deduction from 26 to 20 weeks.

"These benefits are a lifeline for many Michigan families who are struggling in this challenging economy,” Snyder said in a prepared statement. “Cutting them off so abruptly would have jeopardized the well-being of those who are trying hard to find work. Now that we have continued this safety net, we must renew our focus on improving Michigan’s economic climate,” Snyder said.

Michigan, along with other states in the country had been giving residents 26 weeks of jobless benefits since the 1950s. 

Meanwhile, the campaign to Recall Rick Snyder for Michigan, will began the process of collecting a minimum of 790,538 signatures to remove Governor Snyder from the highest state executive office starting  about three months, July 1, 2011, after the state 'safe haven' period for elected officials has expired. 

The group is encouraging those who would like to volunteer to collect signatures, to sign up now on its' website page.

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