April 13, 2009
Legislation part of state's continued efforts to protect citizens
LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today signed legislation that provides jobless Michigan workers with up to seven additional weeks of unemployment benefits.
"In these extremely difficult times, I am pleased we can provide some additional financial help to unemployed workers in the state," Granholm said. "These additional unemployment benefits will not only help families in meeting their basic needs, but they also provide an economic boost to Michigan businesses - the service stations, grocery stores, and retailers - who sell the goods and services families need."
The newly signed legislation expands the extended benefit (EB) program from 13 weeks up to 20 weeks and takes effect immediately. It also boosts the maximum number of weeks an unemployed Michigan worker currently can receive unemployment benefits from 72 to 79 weeks.
Unemployed workers in the state may qualify for up to 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits, up to 33 weeks of federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and, now, up to 20 weeks of extended benefits.
Starting today, newly filed extended-benefits claims will qualify for the additional weeks of EB. Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will also go back and issue redeterminations for all existing EB claims and add up to seven weeks of benefits to those claims.
The UIA estimates that approximately 3,000 unemployed workers are now receiving extended benefits, but it anticipates the number will jump to 70,000 by the end of April as workers who are collecting federal EUC begin exhausting those benefits and moving into the EB program. By year's end, the agency estimates that over 200,000 unemployed Michigan workers will have received extended benefits.
The EB program began in January 2009. The week ending January 31 was the first week for which extended benefits could be paid.
Granholm pointed out that these extended benefits are funded by the federal Recovery Act, which means Michigan employers will not be assessed for them.
The UIA notifies unemployed workers about the EB program when they have two or less weeks remaining on their EUC claim. The agency sends them a notice telling the workers how to apply for the EB either by telephone or online. If the claim is allowed, the worker receives a packet of information, including details about the program's work search requirement.
To help the unemployed Michigan workers and their families who are trying to cope economically during these challenging times, earlier this year, Governor Granholm signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Labor, which increased unemployment benefits by $25 per week. The governor also expanded state services to utilize every available resource to ensure that Michigan citizens have expanded access to file claims, resolve problems, and get information on unemployment benefits in a timely manner.
Steps taken to meet the needs of unemployed citizens, include: extending hours and hiring additional staff at unemployment offices and call centers, opening a new call center in Lansing, extending the hours of the automated telephone system to include Saturdays, allowing citizens to certify for benefits online, adding more computer servers to process claims up to five times faster, and accelerating training to get new hires on the job faster.
The bills signed today are: House Bill 4668 (Public Act 18), House Bill 4669 (Public Act 20), and Senate Bill 399 (Public Act 19)
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