In an effort to help state residents who are underemployed or out of work during the pandemic, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency on Tuesday submitted an application to the United States Federal Emergency Management Administration for funding that would provide an additional $300 per week payment to Michiganders receiving unemployment benefits.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked on President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress to work together on a longer-term recovery package to bolster unemployment benefits.
According to the most recent data available, Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell by 6.5 percentage points to 14.8 percent in June, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (the May Michigan jobless rate was revised up slightly to 21.3 percent). Total employment in June advanced by a significant 464,000 but was still 556,000 below February pre-pandemic levels. Michigan unemployment levels declined by 281,000 in June.
The national jobless rate decreased by 2.2 percentage points between May and June to 11.1 percent. Michigan’s June rate was 3.7 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate. Over the year, the national unemployment rate rose by 7.4 percentage points, while Michigan’s rate advanced by 10.6 percentage points since June 2019.
“Right now, there are an unprecedented number of Michiganders who have lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program will provide some much-needed support for families that are struggling to put food on the table or pay their bills, but it’s a short term band aid that falls short of what’s needed,” Whitmer said in a statement. “A robust Congressional recovery package that meets the scale of this crisis is what’s needed to help individuals who have lost work as a result of the pandemic get through this unprecedented time.”
The UIA estimates that under the program, about 910,000 Michiganders would receive at least $300 per week in supplemental benefits. The program allows for existing Unemployment Trust Fund payments delivered by Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency to count as 25% matching funds required for participation. Eligible claimants will be paid benefits retroactive to August 1. It is unclear at this time how long funding for the program will last.
“We look forward to receiving a response from FEMA in order to implement and distribute these additional funds to Michiganders as quickly as possible,” UIA Director Steve Gray said in a statement. “Michigan workers are advised to continue their bi-weekly certifications as they normally would and do not need to contact the UIA or make changes to their MiWAM account to receive these additional funds.”
Also this week, Whitmer and governors from across the country came together to ask the U.S. government to restore the Census Bureau deadline to Oct. 31
Whitmer, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott sent a joint letter to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce urging them to reinstate the Census collection and response period to October 31. The Census Bureau recently slashed the period by an entire month to September 30, 2020.
“The Trump Administration’s last-minute, under-the-cover-of-darkness changes to the U.S. Census deadline threaten our ability to get an accurate count, which will be used to determine Congressional representation and federal funding for the next decade,” Whitmer said in a statement.
“It is more important than ever that we be able to reach and account for every Michigander to ensure we receive funding for essential programs to help Michiganders recover from the COVID-19 crisis and be successful over the next decade – services like child care, education, foster care, and special education,” Whitmer’s statement said.
“I urge the U.S. Census Bureau to restore the Oct. 31 deadline to give states the time needed to get a complete and accurate count. I’m also calling on all Michigan residents to complete the Census immediately, whether it’s online, by phone, or by mail, to ensure our communities receive the resources they’ve worked so hard to earn.”
In April, Congress and the White House agreed to extend Census count operations through October 31 in light of the extraordinary challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is still a possibility that Congress will act to extend the statutory deadline for delivering the population count beyond December 31, 2020.
Despite this agreement, in August, the U.S. Census Bureau, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, quietly announced they were shortening the 2020 Census deadline to September 30, 2020.
Historically, the U.S. Census has undercounted minorities, immigrants, those living in poverty, and young children. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, confirmed, and highlighted pre-existing inequities in Michigan and disproportionately affected communities of color making it all the more important that these populations are counted.
In Michigan alone, 3.3 million people are considered Hard to Count (HTC) based on the Census Bureau’s own Low Response Score calculation which factors in internet access, rental rate and more to determine which areas are less likely to respond to the 2020 census. With the shortened timeline, the Trump Administration is making it nearly impossible to ensure these HTC communities are counted and as a result compromising funding for all Michiganders.