Winter is coming, but Michiganders like Flint mom Trina Treverbaugh have been left behind by Michigan Republicans’ focus on stripping Gov. Whitmer’s emergency powers.
FLINT, MI—Trina Treverbaugh is a single mother. She and her 12-year-old daughter have lived in their apartment in Flint for years, through challenges ranging from the Flint Water Crisis to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I go without so I can give my kid the things she needs,” Treverbaugh told The ‘Gander. “Parenthood is my greatest accomplishment in life. Without Jahniya I’m nothing. She is my strength through the struggles.”
And she’s proud of her daughter. Jahniya, whose name Treverbaugh explained means “peaceful purpose,” is a straight-A student in honors classes. Like many Michigan moms, Terverbaugh worries about providing for her daughter.
And like too many Michigan moms, she worries about it in harsh, practical terms. Treverbaugh lost her job during the coronavirus pandemic, and has had challenges getting her needed support from Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.
“Some days I don’t even have money to wash now,” she explained. “No shut off notices and [we have] food, but things are rough. Winter is approaching and my kid needs all winter gear and so do I.”
She feels left out by Michigan politics, forgotten as Lansing brings extended protections for out-of-work Michiganders to an end. And she’s angry, she said. Angry at Michigan’s faltering unemployment system and angry at being left adrift by the end of Michigan’s state of emergency following a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.
“Lord forbid one of y’all lose your job and end up in our shoes,” she said. “Fire them and hire me today.”
How Republicans Didn’t Prepare for the Consequences of Winning
It isn’t just that Treverbaugh feels like she wasn’t considered—Michigan Republicans have admitted she wasn’t. Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) told Crain’s that he didn’t spare people like her much thought.
“I haven’t given it much thought because I just kind of rolled my eyes when it was done under an executive order,” Shirkey said. “I haven’t paid that much close attention to it.”
He later told Bridge that the legislature should look into the problem, which will come too late for the more than 800,000 out-of-work Michiganders who lost their last means of support Monday. The state’s Supreme Court Monday rejected a request by Gov. Whitmer to have an amount of time to transition existing executive orders to new policies not covered by the court’s decision to strike down her coronavirus protections. As of Monday, those protections were just gone, denying the legislature time to work out the issue with extended support for jobless Michiganders before that support vanished.
“Rather than return to work in Lansing and fix the problem they’ve created, Republicans decided to cancel session and chose campaigning over ensuring out-of-work Michiganders can keep their lights on and food on their table,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement provided to The ‘Gander. “Republicans’ callous disregard for the lives of Michiganders during this pandemic has already been on full display but campaigning for re-election instead of addressing critical needs really shows that they don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.”
Shirkey also had plenty of time to address this oversight. Not only was the end of the executive authority decided by the state’s Supreme Court something Republicans in Lansing explicitly asked for five months ago giving them ample time to prepare for the repercussions, but state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) pointed out that the state’s House has had a bill to expand support for out-of-work families since 2019, but House Republicans have not allowed action on that legislation.
“We’ve had a bill in the House that would have extended unemployment sitting without a hearing since 2019,” Pohutsky tweeted. “The [executive orders] never stopped us from taking it up, or even drafting a separate bill that only applies to the present crisis, at any point during this pandemic.”
Pohutsky has spent the pandemic trying to champion the cause of Michiganders trying to financially recover from the pandemic as they deal with the realities of a coronavirus-infected economy.
And core to that financial recovery has been the support unemployment offers to jobless Michiganders. Not just in terms of personal financial recovery either, but in terms of Michigan’s overall financial health.
“All these economists have projected we are better off than we thought we were going to be because of these unemployment benefits,” said Rachael Kohl, director of the Workers’ Rights Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, in an interview with MLive. “It helped our state budget, it helped employers and it helped workers.”
As Pohutsky pointed out, though, there are ways already in front of the legislature to address the problems caused by the ruling. And Shirkey did say he wants to look at the problem. All that remains is matching the solution and the problem, so long as the legislature is willing to act.
What This Means In an Election
Many families in Michigan and across the nation are also waiting for much-needed national action, though lawmakers have yet to come up with a plan before Election Day on Nov. 3.
With the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate taking distant positions on the shape a new stimulus would take, President Donald Trump’s haphazard stance on the issue has slowed efforts to restore support for out-of-work Americans since the initial support bill expired in July.
While 800,000 is a step down from the million jobless Michiganders faced earlier in the pandemic, it still is a larger number that Michigan had in the 2008 recession. And from state Rep. John Hoadley to Detroit casino bartender Lenard Lazich, Michiganders are holding President Trump’s leadership responsible for the tepid and unstable economic recovery.
According to an analysis from Moody’s Analytics, Democratic Nominee Joe Biden’s economic plan would lead to 7 million more jobs, compared to Trump’s plan. Biden also has campaigned on his past success in helping turn around the economy after the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, during the Obama-Biden administration.
His overall economic plan includes specific fixes to the support America gives families like Treverbaugh’s.
“As we navigate this crisis, our paramount economic priority must be to make American workers whole, so they retain their income and benefits during this period of social distancing,” Biden said in a statement announcing his reforms of jobless support. “For the workers that are laid off, we should swiftly compensate for lost wages and health benefits for all of them, not just those who can make it through the bureaucracy.”
Treverbaugh’s says she’s strong enough to endure the impacts of a global pandemic emotionally. But it’s financially and economically that she’s looking to her elected leaders to help with.
“Winter is approaching and the weather is changing fast,” she said. “I should have taken the opportunity and skipped a rent payment or two during our state of emergency, but I tried to do the right thing and now look where I’m at: wondering if my child will be warm this winter.”