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$300 unemployment supplement would be eliminated under bill passed in Michigan House

MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo logo MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo 6/17/2021 Samuel J. Robinson, mlive.com

LANSING, MI — The $300 federal unemployment bonus going to residents who lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic would be eliminated under a bill passed Thursday by the Michigan House.

Republicans insist the measure would help small businesses bolster hiring amid a crippling labor shortage.

During debate on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Republicans argued that HB 4434 would usher in a true “return to normalcy” as the state prepares to abandon most of its pandemic-related restrictions next week.

Related: Michigan will end COVID-19 mask mandate, capacity limits early

Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. TC Clements, R-Temperance, said “normal” is impossible without eliminating the supplemental unemployment benefit.

“(This) doesn’t hurt anybody, it empowers everybody,” Clements said. “This is a step that we are taking along with steps this body has taken to get to normal.”

Republicans argued that residents who were collecting unemployment benefits are hurting small businesses, some of which have been decimated by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“The one thing that most of us have been asked every day when we’re in district or we’re talking to neighbors or business owners - this bill does,” Clements said. “It gives them the one thing they need the most, and that’s employees.”

Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan, said she doesn’t see how it makes sense that the state use federal funding to provide unemployment assistance while inching closer to normalcy.

“This amendment would prevent the Unemployment Insurance Agency from working with the federal government, effectively ending Michigan’s participation in the program,” Griffin said.

Democrats scolded their colleagues’ efforts to stop using the federal funding for the supplemental benefits, saying that doing so would deny Michiganders their own tax dollars.

“This $300 means everything,” said Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, who offered fiery testimony Thursday.

“This is the difference between having a roof over your head or eviction. This is the difference between putting diapers on their babies — I don’t even want to tell you what the other side of that is,” Rabhi said.

Rabhi argued that the elimination of the $300 benefit would be “a devastating blow to our economy.”

Every single House Democrat asked to be removed as a co-sponsor to the bill, which originally was crafted in an effort to make Unemployment Insurance Agency language more accessible for users. Fifty-one Republicans added their names as co-sponsors. The measure was approved in a 60-49 vote.

Whitmer, who has spoken in favor of continuing to use federal funding to boost the state’s economic recovery, would likely veto the bill.

READ MORE FROM MLIVE:

Michigan will end COVID-19 mask mandate, capacity limits early

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What to know as Michigan budget talks advance

How to spend federal coronavirus money may be the next big battle between Whitmer and Republicans

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