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104,000 Michigan Workers to Lose Unemployment Benefits Prematurely

Congress Needs to Act Quickly, Says MLHS President Sharon Parks

July 18, 2010       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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By Saturday, 104,000 workers in Michigan will have lost benefits prematurely, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), even as the unemployment rate remains in the double digits.

"With thousands of Michigan families and individuals awaiting word on extended unemployment benefits, Congress needs to act quickly to restore this crucial safety net," said Sharon Parks, Michigan League for Human Services president.

NELP estimates that Michigan's economy is losing $200 million a month because of the loss of unemployment benefits. Ms. Parks said unemployment benefits are one of the most effective economic stimulants available because jobless workers use them to pay bills and keep the dollars circulating.

Michigan's state safety net is frayed, and the state has few resources to absorb thousands of new families into the cash assistance program, she added.

Nonprofit organizations report they are strained to the breaking point. Michigan has led the nation's unemployment rate for 49 out of the past 50 months.

This comes on the heels of some glimmers of improvement in the economy as Michigan's high unemployment dropped to 13.6 percent in May, the first time in four years Michigan didn't lead the country in unemployment.

The majority of the Michigan delegation in Congress has supported extended unemployment benefits and should be thanked for understanding the stress upon families and the state economy. Only U.S. Reps. Candice Miller and David Camp voted "no" while Rep. Peter Hoekstra did not vote.

The anticipated appointment of a replacement for the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, means the Senate may have the 60 votes needed to pass the extension, perhaps as soon as next week.

"Congress needs to act quickly on this," said Ms. Parks. "It must also provide needed fiscal relief to Michigan and other states to pay for health care and other services needed during this difficult economic period. Without that help or other revenue, Michigan must cut more than $500 million from the state budget that will affect health care for vulnerable families, help for abused children, programs for the elderly and other vital services."

The loss of private and public-sector jobs raise the risk of a double-dip recession as the loss of spending power ripples through the economy, experts predict, according to MLHS officials. State budget-cutting actions nationwide could cost the economy 900,000 jobs.

For Michigan, the ongoing economic problems are compounded by the underlying structural deficit where the revenue base is shrinking and doesn't keep up with the needs of families, said Ms. Parks. ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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