FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Leigh Fifelski
Monday, June 22, 2009
Groups call for action on legislation that will bring relief to working families
LANSING – Citizens groups today called on the Michigan Senate majority leaders to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Michigan workers by approving legislation that would use $138 million in federal stimulus funds to extend unemployment benefits for Michigan workers who participate in re-training or vocational programs.
“It’s unconscionable that our leaders in the Senate are sitting on a plan that will bring much-needed relief to our working families,” said Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz. “The Senate leadership is nothing more than a roadblock on the road to recovery for our working families. Workers are being laid off in droves. Families are losing their homes to foreclosure. The unemployment rate is the highest it’s been in 26 years. What is the Senate waiting for? The time to act is now.”
The state House passed legislation on May 6 that would qualify Michigan for federal funds the Obama administration had swiftly made available to states to help unemployed workers. The Senate Tourism and Commerce Committee, however, has yet to act.
Michigan’s unemployment rate hit a 26-year high of 14.1 percent in May. The number of unemployed is expected to increase with the recent bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, as well as a wide range of businesses and suppliers that have been hit hard by the economic crisis.
The federal economic recovery money would provide funding to Michigan to expand unemployment benefits to workers in retraining programs and those who were once full time but no longer qualify for jobless benefits because their hours were reduced to part-time. At least 11 states with lower unemployment rates than Michigan have passed legislation to extend benefits for retraining and worker assistance.
“These federal funds are a lifeline for the tens of thousands of workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own in this tough economy,” said Jack Minore, Michigan AFL–CIO Legislative Director. “Michigan workers are the most dedicated and productive workers in the world. They’re not the kind of people to sit idly by. Many laid off workers are enrolling in training programs that will give them the skills they need for jobs available now in high-demand fields like health care and renewable energy production. This plan will give them the support they need as they strike out on a new path. The Senate must take action now.”