Whitmer signs bills extending unemployment benefits to 26 weeks

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills extending unemployment benefits to 26 weeks for the initial...
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills extending unemployment benefits to 26 weeks for the initial term through the end of 2020.(source: State of Michigan)
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Unemployed Michigan workers officially qualify for six more weeks of benefits -- again.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills on Tuesday extending the initial period of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks. She previously issued an order extending the initial term from 20 to 26 weeks last spring, but the Michigan Supreme Court invalidated the law she used to make that order.

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature approved legislation last week making the unemployment extension a state law through the end of this year. Beginning Jan. 1, the initial term of unemployment benefits will drop back to 20 weeks if lawmakers and Whitmer don’t pass another bill.

“No Michigander should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These bipartisan bills are an important step in providing immediate relief for working families, but given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Michigan, I urge the Legislature to take further action to make this permanent."

She pointed out that 40 states, including most of the Midwest, provide an initial term of 26 weeks for unemployment benefits.

Whitmer also lamented the lack of a provision in the bills, which were introduced by Republican State Sen. Ken Horn of Frankenmuth, to speed up claims processing. Another of Whitmer’s invalidated orders allowed the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to review why workers left only their most recent job, but that will change back to reviewing why workers left all jobs within the past 18 months.

Whitmer called the extra review a waste of resources, especially because employers are not being charged for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 2.2 million Michigan workers have received more than $25 billion worth of unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic reached the state in March. Workers qualify for 26 weeks of state benefits, 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 20 weeks of federal extended benefits -- a total of 59 weeks.

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