by Scott McClallen
Unemployed Michiganders can get an extra six weeks of benefits under a bipartisan bill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Tuesday.
The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 ruled the 1945 law from which Whitmer derived her emergency powers as unconstitutional because it unlawfully delegated legislative powers to the executive branch.
The state’s top court recommended the first-term Democrat work with the legislature to enact laws to protect Michiganders.
Whitmer urged the GOP-led legislature to make the benefits permanent.
“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,” Whitmer said in a statement.
“40 states, including all of our neighbors, automatically provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment relief. Michiganders deserve better than a short-term extension that expires at the end of the year. It’s time to work together on a long-term solution for working families.”
Whitmer criticized the legislature for not fast-tracking unemployment claim processing by allowing the Unemployment Insurance Agency to review only a claimant’s most recent employer separation.
Instead, the agency must evaluate every job a worker has left in the past 18 months – drawing out an already slow process.
“The talent pipeline is an ongoing challenge in segments of the economy, however many other workers are still struggling and this legislation provides certainty for them and employers that the unemployment system will stay stable and funded for the foreseeable future, allowing successful programs like workshare to flourish,” Sandy Baruah, president & CEO of the Detroit Chamber, said in a statement.
Since March 15, Michigan has paid over $25 billion in benefits to 2.2 million workers, Whitmer said.
The bills signed into law are the product of a late-night session last week in which the legislature also passed several bills codifying Whitmer’s orders.
That includes COVID-19 liability bills that aim to protect businesses from lawsuits if they follow regulations, to let local governments meet remotely, and change nursing home policy ensuring homes caring for COVID-19 patients provide a “designated area” for those patients; and, by Nov. 15, implement a statewide policy allowing in-person visitations for all nursing home residents.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, Whitmer’s administration has issued emergency orders under a 1978 law restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and enacting limitations on bars.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.