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Whitmer veto raises questions on if Michigan unemployment benefits are actually extended to 26 weeks


LANSING, MI – #While approving $106 million in COVID-19 relief on #Tuesday, one of #Gov. #Gretchen #Whitmer’s vetoes has raised questions on if unemployment is indeed extended from 20 to 26 weeks.

#Whitmer signed #Senate #Bill 604, which would extend unemployment benefits for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to 26 weeks through #April 1. #However, one of her line item vetoes in an accompanying bill, SB 748, axed a $220 million appropriation into the #Unemployment #Insurance #Trust #Fund, the account from which unemployment benefits are paid.

The language in the unemployment extension bill, sponsored by #Sen. #Curtis #Hertel, D-East #Lansing, requires the $220 million appropriation into the #Unemployment #Insurance #Trust #Fund for the extension to occur.

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The bill states: “The extension of benefits for claims for weeks beginning after #Jan. 1, 2021 but before #April 1, 2021…does not take effect unless $220 (million) or more is appropriated as provided for in #Senate #Bill 748 of the 100th #Legislature for deposit into the unemployment compensation fund to cover the extension of benefits.”

The veto of the $220 million appropriation has some #Republicans saying the unemployment extension is effectively canceled. #Hertel and #Whitmer, however, say the bills stand alone and the benefit extension can happen without the additional funding. #Hertel also pointed to language in the bill that federal funding can be used to replace state funding for the appropriation.

“Specifically, (#Republicans) said it wasn’t tie-barred when the bills were passed,” #Hertel said. “I don’t think it is a tie-bar, because it specifically mentions federal funds.”

A tie-bar, in legislative parlance, means neither bill could go into effect unless the other were also enacted

#Read more: #Whitmer partially approves COVID-19 relief, vetoes $220 million replenishment of #Unemployment #Insurance #Trust #Fund

#Whitmer vetoed all provisions related to the $220 million appropriation, including the language that appeared in both the relief bill and the unemployment extension.

#Read more: #Read the $465M coronavirus response plan #Michigan lawmakers are sending to #Whitmer

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The veto has no effect on current unemployed workers or their benefit weeks, said #Unemployment #Insurance #Agency spokesman #Jason #Moon, who shared a statement prepared by #Whitmer’s office.

#When asked about the veto during a press conference on #Tuesday, #Whitmer said the $220 million she vetoed ‘doesn’t immediately go to the needs of anybody right now, which was a big part of the problem.”

“It does not jeopardize a single effort or resource that is dedicated to helping our unemployed and anyone who tells you that just isn’t being honest about what that was all about,” #Whitmer said, adding that the veto would not prevent anyone from getting their benefits.

#Whitmer also pointed to the federal stimulus approved by #President #Donald #Trump on #Sunday, #Dec. 27 that would provide unemployed workers with an additional $300 a week in federal aid.

“The continuation of these benefits coupled with the additional $300 per week for all claimants will provide our workers with the emergency financial assistance to buy essential items like groceries and prescription drugs,” #Whitmer said in a release.

#Sen. #Jim #Stamas, R-Midland, who sponsored the COVID-19 supplemental however, said the veto “negates” #Hertel’s unemployment bill, as the language states that extension requires an appropriation “from the 100th #Legislature,” which ended its session last week.

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“It’s not a formal tie-bar, but in language it was equivalent to a tie-bar,” #Stamas told MLive. “It was referring to the $220 million being appropriated from the 100th #Legislature for deposit…the key language is that it comes from the 100th #Legislature.”

#At the start of the pandemic, the unemployment fund had $4.6 billion, but has dropped below $800 million as today – meaning more than 80% of the fund has dried up in nine months. #Employers typically pay into the fund via a payroll tax to cover benefits for laid-off workers.

#Read more: #Here’s what the state’s $465 million, the feds’ $908 billion COVID aid bills mean for #Michiganders

The protection of the $220 million allocation into the fund was meant to protect small businesses from increased taxes, #Stamas said.

“The intent of the dollars was to prevent an increase on the payroll tax to the employers by having the state pay for it,” he said. “That is why it was specifically appropriated.”

#Proponents of the veto say the bill would have essentially given large corporations tax cuts by not having to pay into the trust fund. #Hertel acknowledged that the veto would mean all employers, including small businesses, would have to pay into the fund to replenish it moving forward.

#Lobbyists for small businesses argued the same point.

“As a result, #Michigan’s smallest employers will see significant tax hikes in the coming years as the UI #Trust #Fund goes further into debt due to the state’s temporary extension of unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks through the end of #March 2021,” said #National #Federation of #Independent #Business #State #Director #Charlie #Owens in a statement.

“However, the larger issue for the business community is that our support of the temporary benefit extension was contingent on the funding transfer,” he said, “and we had an understanding that this was agreed upon by the administration and the legislature.”

#Whitmer vetoed multiple other line items in what was originally a $465 million relief plan, including the $220 million allocation. #Here is what else she vetoed, according to a #Governor’s office filing:

  • A payment of $100,000 to renovate #Brown #Hall on the #Saginaw #Valley #State #University campus.
  • #Another $100,000 to the #Michigan #Department of #Health and #Human #Services for new psychiatric facility in #Chippewa #County in northern #Michigan. A separate line-item veto noted that this facility would have been at a former correctional facility.
  • A $100 million combined cut from health-plan services and #Healthy #Michigan. #Whitmer did approve a $115.3 million appropriation to hospitals and nursing homes to address health-care worker shortages.
  • A shifting of $41.7 million in transportation planning service costs, which would have been offset by the same amount coming from elsewhere in the general fund.
  • A $5 million one-time appropriation to pay off debts from the property tax deferral service enacted this year to help taxpayers cope with revenue losses due to the pandemic.
  • A provision to deposit any federal coronavirus relief funds from 2020 that hasn’t been used by #Dec. 30 into the unemployment trust fund.
  • A provision to require the state’s budget director to report on how much money has been deposited into the unemployment compensation fund.

#Whitmer’s partial signing of the relief bill sends approves $55 million in grants to small businesses affected by COVID-19, including $3.5 million just for entertainment venues, and $45 million in state aid to laid-off or furloughed workers.

#Read more from MLive:

#Gov. #Whitmer says she’ll sign #Michigan COVID-19 relief bill ‘in very near future’

#No indoor dining until next year, but some entertainment venues open under latest #Michigan coronavirus order

#General apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine distribution day after #Whitmer blasts #Trump administration

#Whitmer partners with governors in 2 other states, asks #Trump for more money during coronavirus battle

#Whitmer administration asks #Michigan legislature for $400 million to fund COVID-19 response

#Michigan #House votes to repeal 1945 emergency law used by #Whitmer to issue coronavirus orders



[ source link ]
https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2020/12/whitmer-veto-raises-questions-on-if-michigan-unemployment-benefits-are-actually-extended-to-26-weeks.html

##Whitmer #veto #raises #questions ##Michigan #unemployment #benefits #extended #weeks

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