Governor Whitmer Vetoes GOP Proposal to End Participation in Federal Jobless Benefit Enhancement

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer address the media after several dams breached, in downtown Midland, Mich., May 20, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a Republican initiative Tuesday that would end the state’s participation in federal benefits enhancements that provide an extra $300 to those who became unemployed during the pandemic.

In a statement explaining her reasoning for rejecting the measure obtained by the Detroit News, Whitmer said she is “open to discontinuing” the enhanced benefit early if the Republican-dominated state legislature funnels federal funding to childcare needs and increases the standard unemployment benefit.

Before the bill arrived at the governor’s desk, it failed to secure a two-thirds majority in the state legislature, disqualifying it from immediate enactment. Whitmer argued that the bill also violated federal law by not providing minimum notice of 30 days before attempting to discontinue the federal relief enhancement.

“Moreover, ending these enhanced UI (unemployment insurance) benefits on July 31, as proposed by HB 4434, would drain $1.5 billion from our economy — money that will instead flow into our local economies and support small businesses,” Whitmer noted.

Since federal unemployment insurance has been expanded and distributed in states across the nation, many businesses have struggled with labor shortages, as employees have a greater incentive to remain on government entitlement programs, some of which pay more than certain jobs. Republicans in Michigan have lobbied to cut the federal unemployment benefit enhancement short, citing the need for workers to reenter the labor force now that vaccines are readily available, the loosening of COVID health restrictions, and declining infection rates.

“They are changing the way they do business based on not having enough employees,” Michigan Republican state senator Ken Horn told the Detroit News in reference to stores and shops that have been adversely affected by the jobless benefit extension.

The federal programs are currently scheduled to expire on September 4, with at least 25 states agreeing to end the extended unemployment benefits early, according to the nonpartisan state House Fiscal Agency.

“Whitmer crippled small businesses with her excessive COVID restrictions and shutdowns, and vetoing this bill and continuing Michigan’s labor shortage is tantamount to kicking them while they’re down,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for conservative organization Michigan Rising Action told the Detroit News Tuesday.

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