The COVID-19 crisis had laid bare the woefully subpar insurance benefits Michigan provides to unemployed workers. In fact, Michigan is one of the worst states in the country for unemployed workers. The maximum of 20 weeks of benefits and weekly cap of $362 is simply not enough to survive. The lowest wage workers (typically in food service) are eligible for only $160 per week.

Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have been able to stay barely afloat only due to Federal money from the CARES act. But as the CARES act begins to expire for many unemployed workers, our state GOP seems content to let families drop off a cliff into devastating hardship.

Yet, well before this crisis, two bill packages have been waiting to address this failed “safety net” for unemployed workers in Michigan. But the do-nothing Republicans have ignored them. Instead of relying on the Federal government to act (or not) our legislators should be taking care of our own people who faithfully paid into our unemployment insurance system every week.

So this week, we are calling these GOP representatives and urging them to take action on two packages of bills that would vastly improve unemployment support in Michigan.

Please call these GOP house reps and urge them to take up MI house bill packages HB 4894-4903 & 5882-5889 and to stop failing Michigan workers in crisis.

Ryan Berman D39 (517) 373-1799                  Annette Glenn D98 (517) 373-1791
Greg Markkanen D110 (517) 373-0850           Andrea Schroeder D43 (517) 373-0615
John Reilly D46 517-373-1798

Suggested Script for Calling Legislators:
Hi Rep. _________________ I am calling to express my dismay that you have taken zero action to improve the subpar, inadequate benefits our state provides to unemployed workers. The COVID crisis has laid bare that without support from the Federal CARES act, unemployed workers in Michigan are barely able to survive. I urge you to take up house bills HB 4894-4903 & 5882-5889 immediately and stop failing Michigan workers in crisis.

BACKGROUND:

HB Package 5882-5889:

This package of bills is designed to fix some of the shortcomings of our state’s current unemployment system, that were brought to light during this pandemic by amending Michigan Employment Security Act, Michigan’s unemployment law, in the following ways:

  • HB 5882 (RABHI)- would allow workers to collect unemployment benefits during a state declared emergency concerning an infectious disease so that Michigan workers can stay at home to care for their kids if the schools close, or to care for an ill or infected family member, or need to quarantine, self-quarantine, or self-isolate themselves because they are immunocompromised, sick, or exposed to a sick person.  It also waives the work registration and work search requirements.  This codifies Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 24-2020.

 

  • HB 5883 (WITWER)- lowers the high quarter earnings eligibility requirement to $1235 from $3744.  Michigan has one of the highest high quarter earnings eligibility requirements across the country, which leaves many low wage, part-time, and wait staff summarily held ineligible for benefits because they earn too little, further plummeting them and their family into poverty.

 

  • HB 5884 (SABO)- increases the weekly benefit amount to 6.1% of a worker’s highest quarter earnings. It is currently at 4.1%, which is one of the lowest in the country and leaves many Michigan families struggling to put food on their tables and pay their bills, while they are unemployed.

 

  • HB 5885 (LASINSKI)-replaces the test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor with the ABC test, instead of the IRS 20 factor test.  This will ensure that fewer workers are misclassified as independent contractors, and that decision will truly be based upon workers controlling the terms and conditions of their employment and hold themselves out to the public as an independent contractor.  This bill also allows independent contractors to be eligible to collect UI benefits, during a state declared emergency.  As the labor market shifts towards more GIG workers and independent contractors, these workers also need a safety net, if they can’t work or lose work through no fault of their own.

 

  • HB 5886 (KENNEDY)- allows seasonal employees to collect unemployment benefits during the off-season. This law was changed in the 1990(s), leaving seasonal workers without a safety net and ineligible for benefits, which disparately impacts minority and immigrant communities.

 

  • HB 5887 (GUERRA)-allows low wage school employees to collect unemployment benefits during the summer and winter break.  Low wage school employees are defined as the poverty level for a family of four, which is approximately $26,200.  Many of our school’s para pros, cafeteria workers, bus drivers are on the front line of protecting and educating our students but earn poverty level hourly wages and live paycheck to paycheck.  Only to find themselves without pay every summer for 2 and a half months and they cannot even collect unemployment benefits.  Thus, plummeting them and their families below the poverty level.

 

  • HB 5888 (ELDER)-requires employers to keep track of all declared tips of their waitstaff and report them on their quarterly reports to the unemployment agency.  This was a huge problem brought to light during this pandemic, that most restaurants were not properly reporting all of the wages of their waitstaff, which should include tips. Thus, leaving many waitstaff ineligible for benefits or their benefit level being so low that they could not support themselves and their families.

 

  • HB 5889 (SABO)-This bill ensures that only the separating employer will be used to determine a non-monetary disqualification for benefits.  This was another problem that was brought to light during the pandemic, that previous employers were holding up and disqualifying hard-working Michiganders, who found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, from getting unemployment benefits.  This codifies Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 76-20.

HB Package: 4894-4903

  • HB 4894 (Lasinski) Dependents; Duration of Benefit Weeks  Removes the $362 cap (the weekly maximum rate) on dependents; Increases the number of allowable dependents from 5 to 6; increases the amount an unemployed worker receives per dependent from $6 to $20; Restores the maximum benefit weeks to 26; it was reduced in 2012 to 20 weeks.

 

  • HB 4895 (Sabo) Benefit Amount- Increases the weekly maximum rate from $362 to $542 after January 2020 (this figure has not been adjusted in nearly 2 decades); Restores indexing this maximum rate to 58% of the state average weekly wage starting January 1, 2021.

 

  • HB 4896 (Sowerby) Statute of Limitations – Extends the statute of limitations to six years on claims brought by individuals who were improperly accused of unemployment fraud between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2016.

 

  • HB 4897 (Love) Employer Fraud Oversight – Requires the UIA to submit annual reports to the Legislature regarding employers who are delinquent on contribution taxes and what corrective actions the UIA is planning/conducting to remedy the situation.

 

  • HB 4898 (Chirku) Database Security Breach – Requires state agencies to help individuals restore their credit when their private information is compromised due to a security breach in a database system operated or maintained by a state agency.