Michigan small businesses push state to drop extra federal unemployment benefits

Posted at 5:32 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 05:50:27-04

(WXYZ) — Some Michigan small business owners are pushing the state and the feds to ditch the extra federal unemployment help.

Currently, Michiganders who are out of work can collect up to $662 per week, that's $362 from the state and $300 in federal benefits, from President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

That extra $300 isn't set to expire until September, but some employers argue it's making the worker shortage even worse.

The federal aid is half of what it was last year, and experts say child care and health concerns are also impacting people's desire to return to work right now. This group of small business owners believes if there's less help for those who are unemployed, we'll see fewer "now hiring" signs.

“I think we need incentives as well as trying to remove the disincentives such as the extra federal benefits," Charlie Owens, the Michigan state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said.

Owens wants Michigan to join 11 other states and reject further federal unemployment help.

A survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses from April shows a record 44% of small business owners had job openings they couldn't fill.

In Michigan, those collecting unemployment will once again have to prove they're actively looking for work by the end of the month. That requirement was suspended during the onset of the pandemic.

This means applicants must report one work-search activity per week. This could be applying for a job in person or online, or attending a job fair or hiring fair.

Earlier this week, Biden made it clear, if someone is offered a job, they should take it.

"We're going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment, who is offered a suitable job, must take the job, or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said. "There are a few COVID-19 related exceptions so that people aren't forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck but otherwise that's the law."

At the state level, a Michigan House bill seeks to offer people a $1,000 return-to-work incentive. If approved, it would allow around 400,000 people to collect the perk.

Owens said he's concerned about Michigan employers meeting demand, especially in the hospitality sector as the state continues to reopen.

“So I think you’re going to see an explosion of tourism this summer. People wanting to get out, wanting to do things and at the same time employers, such as our members, small businesses, they have no one to fill these positions," he said.

This shortage in workers is also once again bringing up the conversation about what is a reasonable wage. Are people being paid enough to return to the job? In some cases, we're seeing private employers offer sign-on bonuses to try and lure new workers to the table.

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