Unemployment benefits extension passed in Michigan House

LANSING, MI – State lawmakers have struck a deal with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on unemployment benefits reform.

The Michigan House voted 101-0 after midnight during its Wednesday, Oct. 14 session to approve Senate bills 886 and 911, which closely mirror Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-76. The legislation would put temporary pandemic measures in place for Michigan’s unemployment system until the end of the year.

The Senate unanimously passed both bills with technical language substitutes later Wednesday morning. Negotiations between Whitmer, the House and the Senate started Tuesday, Oct. 13 and lasted into the wee hours of the next morning.

Read more: Michigan unemployment pitfalls following Supreme Court ruling could be fixed with Senate bill

After the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Whitmer’s emergency powers, she charged the legislature with ensuring unemployment benefits remain in place. An issue that held up negotiations between Whitmer, the House and Senate involved the unemployment bills being tie-barred to a package on COVID-19 lawsuit liability.

House bills 6030, 6031, 6032 and 6101 provide lawsuit standards for COVID-19 exposure for businesses, employees and people visiting said businesses. Whitmer has previously called the package “a solution in search of a problem.”

Related: Michigan House approves bills establishing COVID-19 lawsuit standards

Both sides dropped the tie-bar requirement, and both sets of legislation were approved separately.

The deal is “great news for working families and small businesses,” tweeted Speaker of the House Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

“We have a deal on unemployment benefits and liability reform,” he said via Twitter. “The tie bar is no longer necessary, because we found common ground.”

The COVID-19 liability package passed in the Michigan Senate, some with bipartisan support and some on partisan lines.

State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, sponsored the Senate bills and said Tuesday afternoon that he was optimistic the Governor would sign both, as both his and her staffs worked together during bill review.

“They (were) tie-barred because together they bring great balance in protecting both employees and employers, both public and private sector,” Horn told MLive.

Horn had previously said Whitmer should stop making “snarky, condescending speeches about us not working with her” and work with Republican lawmakers.

Just like Whitmer’s executive order, Senate Bill 866 extends the maximum unemployment benefit period from 20 weeks to 26 weeks, doesn’t make employers pay for benefits when someone is laid off due to COVID-19, allows employers to use the work-share program even if not normally eligible and allows people to receive benefits while taking time off work for a COVID-19-related cause.

Also, all benefits paid out during the pandemic are deemed valid, except in fraud cases.

The bill doesn’t mention waiving the requirement for people to actively search for work – like the executive order did – meaning recipients may need to prove they’re looking for a job to get paid, if the bill is passed as is.

Another excluded piece: It doesn’t include the provision from the executive order that makes the agency only look at a person’s most

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A top House Republican criticized the $400 weekly federal unemployment benefit in the White House stimulus plan, saying the GOP doesn’t want ‘wasteful spending’



Kevin Brady wearing a suit and tie: Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas on Capitol Hill. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo


© Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas on Capitol Hill. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

  • Rep, Kevin Brady criticized elements of the White House plan, including a $400 federal unemployment benefit.
  • “The worry is: ‘How much wasteful spending will we have to swallow to do this?” Brady said in a Fox Business interview.
  • Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, expressed concern that a $400 federal unemployment benefit disincentivizes work.
  • Numerous studies indicate an earlier $600 federal benefit didn’t keep people out of the labor force.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas — the ranking Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee — was critical of elements within the White House’s stimulus proposal on Thursday, including a $400 weekly federal unemployment benefit.

During an interview with Fox Business, Brady said many Republicans are reluctant to back a stimulus plan with a big price tag.

“The worry is: ‘How much wasteful spending will we have to swallow to do this?” Brady said, adding he wanted the federal government to prioritize spending on thwarting the coronavirus and aiding the jobless.

But he expressed concern that a $400 federal supplement to state unemployment checks would disincentivize people from seeking work, arguing many would earn more out of work than on the job as a result.

It’s a claim often made by Republicans about the economic impact of the $600 federal unemployment benefit that expired in late July. Numerous studies show it didn’t keep jobless people out of the workforce.

Brady said “targeted help” was needed, particularly to airlines moving ahead with layoffs and the restaurant industry.

Read more: BlackRock’s investment chief breaks down why Congress passing a second round of fiscal stimulus is ‘quite serious’ for markets and the economy — and pinpoints which sectors will benefit in either scenario

House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are pressing for a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan. It includes a $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, another wave of $1,200 stimulus checks, and aid to cash-strapped states and small businesses.

Meanwhile, the White House put forward a $1.6 trillion virus aid proposal containing many of the same measures, but lower spending amounts.

Brady’s remarks underscore the opposition to significant federal spending among GOP lawmakers. Many in the GOP say they’re opposed to stimulus plans since it would grow the federal debt. Lawmakers have approved over $3 trillion in federal aid since the pandemic began devastating the economy in the spring.

Negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi stretched into their fifth day on Thursday. The California Democrat assailed the White House’s proposal in a Bloomberg TV interview.

“This isn’t half a loaf. What they’re offering is the heel of the loaf… and you really can’t just say, well, just take this,” she said.

Read more: Stimulus talks press on as dealmakers push for another boost to unemployment payments. Here’s everything you need to know about the rescue package.

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The White House is proposing a $400 federal unemployment benefit as part of stimulus package

  • The White House is proposing a $400-a-week federal unemployment benefit as part of its stimulus package.
  • It would be retroactive to September 12, Roll Call first reported.
  • There appears to be early agreement among lawmakers and the White House that any federal benefit should pick up where an administration program left off.
  • “I think a lot of it is probably cost, and some of it is trying not to interact with a really weird program we don’t fully understand,” unemployment expert Michele Evermore told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House is proposing to restore federal unemployment benefits at $400-per-week as part of its $1.6 stimulus plan offered to Democrats on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.

The plan would be retroactive to September 12, per Roll Call, which first reported the details of the Trump administration’s spending proposal, and expire on January 1.

It means payments would be dated just over a week after the Federal Emergency Management Administration said it was capping funding for six weeks of $300 jobless benefits for states taking up the federal “Lost Wages” program through September 5. President Donald Trump enacted it in early August through an executive order.

There appears to be early agreement among lawmakers and the White House for the federal government to pick up where FEMA left off. Democrats are proposing reviving a $600 federal benefit that expired in the summer through January, making it retroactive to September 6.

Read more: Stimulus talks press on as dealmakers push for another boost to unemployment payments. Here’s everything you need to know about the rescue package.

Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said lawmakers are likely trying to avoid technical hurdles that could emerge if payments were retroactive to August, such as a jobless person receiving double the unemployment benefits from overlapping federal programs.

“I think a lot of it is probably cost, and some of it is trying not to interact with a really weird program we don’t fully understand,” Evermore told Business Insider. 

She added: “At this point, even small technical difficulties are a really big deal since state systems have been through so much.”

The White House’s unemployment program is still distributing jobless payments in many states, and experts don’t know how many people are receiving them since states aren’t required to report those figures, Evermore said. 

Congress and President Trump in March enacted a $600 federal supplement to state unemployment benefits that many experts say helped people buy groceries and pay rent while also propping up the economy. Lawmakers have been fiercely divided on a replacement amount.

Many Republicans argue that the $600 federal payments discourage work among the unemployed, a claim that numerous studies have challenged. 

New jobless claims have plateaued in recent weeks, regularly topping 800,000 over six months into the pandemic. Around 26.5 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, per Labor Department data.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday during a Fox Business Interview that

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House Democrats stimulus plan: Unemployment benefits, direct payments

House Democrats on Monday unveiled a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan that includes reviving the $600 federal unemployment benefit and sending a second round of stimulus checks to millions of American taxpayers.

House Democrats in May passed a $3.4 trillion spending package called the Heroes Act. (The new proposal has the same name.) It formed the basis of their coronavirus relief negotiations with Republicans, though they have lowered their demands and now insist on at least $2.2 trillion in new spending.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she aimed to bring Republicans back to the negotiating table with the new proposal.

“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now,” she said in a letter to members of her caucus.

Here are several of the package’s provisions:

  • $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits until January 31, retroactive from September 6.
  • Another round of $1,200 direct payments, plus $500 per dependent.
  • $436 billion in additional assistance to state and local governments.
  • A reinstatement of the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses as well as nonprofits and restaurants.
  • $225 billion in funds to help schools.
  • $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
  • $50 billion in emergency rental assistance, half of what Democrats initially sought.

Read more: Stimulus talks resume as dealmakers work toward another round of checks. Here’s everything you need to know about the rescue package.

Many components of the last major economic relief law, the CARES Act, expired over the summer, and Congress hasn’t implemented other relief measures since.

Through an executive order in August, President Donald Trump implemented a Lost Wages Assistance program that drew $44 billion in disaster relief funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover a $300 federal supplement to state unemployment benefits.

That federal money is drying up, though FEMA guaranteed six weeks of funding to approved states through September 5.

Both chambers of Congress would need to approve the Democrats’ plan for it to reach Trump’s desk for his signature. But that’s highly uncertain given that Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked on further coronavirus relief measures.

Negotiations in August stalled amid fierce disagreements over the amount of federal spending needed to prop up the economy. Unemployment benefits and state aid are still two areas of major friction between the parties.

Democrats blocked a “skinny” $650 billion package from the GOP earlier this month, dismissing it as “emaciated” and inadequate to address the twin public-health and economic crises.

Many economists have urged Congress to approve another relief package to keep people and businesses afloat through the pandemic and prevent the economy from backsliding. But the prospect of a Supreme Court nomination battle in the coming weeks has drained hopes of a package before Americans cast their ballots in November.

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White House eyes executive action to keep unemployment benefits flowing

The White House is considering executive action to provide more money for unemployment benefits, following the exhaustion of funds made available by President Trump’s previous administrative maneuvering.

“We’re looking at all possible avenues to continue giving relief to Americans from an executive standpoint, in lieu of Democrats agreeing to a legislative deal,” said Ben Williamson, a senior adviser for Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.

Trump, through a memorandum in August, made available up to $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to workers sidelined by the pandemic in the form of a $300-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits, to be matched by $100 from state governments. The additional jobless aid is known as Lost Wages Assistance.

Over $30 billion of those dollars have already been distributed. With money running low, the agency has said that total funding will be limited to six weeks, in total, for every state that has applied so far, a spokesman told the Washington Examiner. The administration has had to start cutting off certain states, including Texas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, and New Hampshire.

The impetus behind Trump’s executive order on the enhanced payment was Congress’s inability to extend added unemployment benefits, which had been enacted in the March CARES Act at a rate of $600 a week. The program has been expired for over a month. Lawmakers in both parties support extending the enhanced benefit, but they have so far failed to agree on a dollar amount for the payment.

The White House is considering using an executive order to authorize FEMA to provide more assistance to states by making additional funds available to them through the $300-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits, a former senior administration official said. This would allow more FEMA funds to be used after the current $44 billion is exhausted.

There is a fear, however, of overusing FEMA’s funds and leaving the agency vulnerable as it deals with hurricane season as well as the wildfires on the West Coast.

“I take what the administration is doing as a good-faith effort to give assistance to people who haven’t had work for many weeks,” said Matt Weidinger, a fellow who focuses on unemployment and poverty at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

“I’m sure every unemployed person would like to keep getting an additional $300 every week,” Weidinger said.

He said, however, that any potential executive actions to provide more unemployment aid could affect the incentives to return to work and would add to the debt in a harmful manner.

Until the $44 billion in additional unemployment aid is exhausted, FEMA will continue working with states to provide jobless help.

“On August 8, President Trump took decisive and unprecedented action to help unemployed Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” FEMA press secretary Lizzie Litzow told the Washington Examiner. “FEMA continues to work with states and territories to fulfill their requests for six weeks of Lost Wages Assistance.”

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