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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Press Release-Close to 30 states will follow Michigan to lose part of Unemployment Insurance in 2012


Press Release

Honorable U.S. House Representative Sander Levin (D-Michigan)

Close to 30 states will follow Michigan and lose some Unemployment Insurance in first six months of 2012

February 4, 2012
Photo Credit-Google Images
U.S. Representative Sander
Levin (D-Michigan) issues
Press Release on jobless
benefits.
WASHINGTON – Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, a member of the Conference Committee responsible for the extension of the Unemployment Insurance program and the payroll tax cut, issued the following statement regarding the news that 30,000 Michiganders would no longer qualify for the last 20 weeks of the Federal Extended Benefit Unemployment Insurance (UI) program as of February 18, 2012.

“This is the first wave of tens of thousands of laid-off workers losing their unemployment insurance unless the UI program is extended in Washington these next weeks in a sound and sensitive manner.

“Unfortunately, the two-month extension of unemployment insurance contained a three-year look back provision for evaluating a state’s eligibility for the extended benefit program which disadvantaged states like Michigan that have experienced prolonged periods of high unemployment.  If the federal extended benefit program is not fixed in the conference committee, close to 30 states will follow Michigan and lose access to this program in the first six months of 2012. 

“What makes the situation even more dire, in this period of the highest percentage of long-term unemployed on record, is that the plan passed by the House Republicans in December and promoted by Republicans in Conference Committee negotiations would eliminate a full 40 weeks of unemployment insurance.  In Michigan, this would result in a reduction to 46 weeks of unemployment insurance because the Governor earlier signed a bill reducing the state program from 26 to 20 weeks. 

“While there is good news in Friday’s jobs report that the unemployment rate is going down in the nation and in Michigan, the State unemployment rate of 9.3% is still the 12th highest in the nation. The fact that in the Midwest there are still four unemployed Americans for every job opening illustrates why it is vital to extend the UI program nationally and to fix the unemployment insurance program for high unemployment states.  We must recognize that while the economy is getting better, we are digging out of the largest jobs ditch since the Great Depression and now is not the time to abandon families looking for work during this recovery.”

Because this debate has been going on for months, State officials were well aware of the impact of the look-back provision on Michigan and should not have been “caught off guard,” as indicated by a State spokesperson.  To fully make sure that our nation and our state are fully on guard in the coming weeks in confronting the expiration of unemployment insurance, we need to go beyond the numbers. 

Since we cannot obtain the names of the unemployed, it is important that their stories be told.  My office has been collecting stories from the unemployed for months and I strongly encourage individuals and their families to continue to be in touch through the e-Call to Extend Unemployment Insurance at http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/extendui or through the Extend UI Facebook page www.facebook.com/ExtendUI

BACKGROUND

The Extended Benefits program – which provides up to 20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance – determines states’ eligibility in part through a “look-back” provision that compares the latest three-month average unemployment rate in each state with the three-month average from the previous three years.

States whose unemployment rates are not 10 percent higher during the current period than any of the previous three years become ineligible for Extended Benefits even though, in many cases, their unemployment rates remain stubbornly high.  The Extended Benefits program is the last 20 weeks of unemployment insurance after an individual has exhausted the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program and is still looking for work. 

At just under $300 a week, the average unemployment benefit nationally equals only one-third of the average weekly wage, and reaches only 70% of the poverty line for a family of four. 

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