The relief many out-of-work Michiganders now rely on during the pandemic is expiring. Here’s why they’ve already gotten their final checks.
MICHIGAN — Michiganders out of work because of the coronavirus will see a check $600 lighter than they’ve become accustomed to during the pandemic. Though the legislation providing that additional funding doesn’t expire until Friday, Michigan’s end-of-week day is Saturday, and therefore will not pay out the additional funds in the final week of July.
That weekly $600, included in a government relief package enacted in late March, has helped millions of workers stay in their homes and pay bills even as the jobless rate surged to its highest levels since World War II.
Nearly a million Michiganders are presently on unemployment assistance, reports Crain’s. More than 110,000 Michiganders were added to the program receiving that additional assistance as recently as July 4. More than $13.4 billion has been paid to unemployed Michiganders through the program.
“You just look out the window and you know things are grim,” said Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. “The first, second, and third most important things for the economy right now are the progress of the disease.”
While both Democrats and Republicans want to renew the additional support to unemployment assistance, Democrats call for continuing the current levels of funding and Republicans want to slash current funding levels by two-thirds, COURIER reports, down to only $200 a week.
And as The ’Gander reported earlier in July, more than one in four Michiganders have found themselves out of work during the pandemic. Almost half of Detroiters lost jobs.
Republicans worry that the additional funding prevents people from seeking steady employment during the pandemic. Beth Graham, from Plymouth, pushed back on that notion. Graham and her partner both work as graphic designers and both lost their jobs as event work dried up in March.
“I really like my job and I want to get back to it. Same for my partner,” she told The ’Gander. “Since a lot of our work is event-based or for restaurants, they had to cut staff way back.”
And some people can’t return so easily to work. Entrepreneur Katie Carls told The ’Gander that her maid service will likely not be able to operate safely any time soon, and restaurant employee Garrett Levis tested positive for HIV right before the pandemic — a coronavirus infection would most likely be lethal for him.
This has put all three of their families in an increasingly dire situation.
And that $600 a week makes a big difference by design, argued the Brookings Institute’s Gary Burtless. The average unemployment stipend in America was only $357, designed only to accommodate for less than half a person’s wages. Tripling that is a massive infusion of support in a struggling economy.
“It just transforms the whole system,” Burtless said. “For people with average pay or below-average pay, it’s a very big weekly benefit if they ever receive it.”
While the additional support from the federal government is gone, an additional $362 from the State of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency will remain in effect.
“While we continue to make progress in processing claims with nearly 98% paid, we know that the continued economic hardship caused by COVID-19 and ending of the additional $600 in federal benefits will cause many to worry about their future,” UIA Director Steve Gray told WDIV. “We remain committed to providing emergency financial assistance to Michigan workers whose jobs were affected by this pandemic and those impacted are encouraged to utilize the many resources the State of Michigan has to offer.”
UIA recommends Michiganders who just lost additional support from the federal government go to the state’s MI Bridges site, which has over 30,000 state and local services to help with temporary assistance during the pandemic.