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Extra $300 in unemployment benefits ends this weekend; what it means for Michiganders

Unemployment Benefits
Posted at 9:10 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 09:10:57-04

(WSYM) — In just two days, thousands of Michiganders receiving federal unemployment help will have to say goodbye to the extra $300 a week.

The federal unemployment money is part of several programs extended under the CARES Act. Final payments will go out Saturday before the program officially ends on Labor Day.

It's a punch in the gut for gig, freelance, and contract workers across metro Detroit.

Start on Sept. 4, the most people who are out of work can collect in Michigan will be $362 a week from the state. One man we spoke to said saying goodbye to the extra $300 a week is putting him in a tough spot.

"I went back on food stamps, that's the only way I'm eating. Other than that, I make $700 to pay my bills," David Campbell said. He's self-employed and receiving federal unemployment benefits.

He works in landscaping, and like so many others, has had his fill of paperwork and waiting on the phone from both the feds and the state.

"I don't know where to turn. I mean you can't get ahold of anybody," he said.

What he does know is that losing $300 a week will make his situation even more fragile.

Greg Pitoniak, the CEO of the federally-contracted job center SEMCA Michigan Works, said the biggest reasons his clients tell him they're still not working tends to be transportation, childcare costs, and health concerns with the delta variant spreading rapidly. Unemployment, he said, usually isn't the only factor.

"We have noticed in recent months, a slow but steady increase in people making inquiries to our office with job opportunities," he said.

Pitoniak said the ending of the extra federal benefits might add to this a little, but he doesn't expect the flood gates to open. The worker shortage, he points out, was a problem he saw going into the pandemic.

"The job market in general in Detroit has increased 25 percent from this time last year. Temporary and flexible jobs have increased 32 percent," David Irwin, the head of communications for PeopleReady, said.

"So there are a lot of opportunities within that space but really there's a lot of hesitancy from people to go back to those kinds of full-time jobs that they lost in the pandemic."

Michigan was one of the states with the largest decrease in claims for federal unemployment for the week ending Aug. 14. All told, more than $38 billion has been paid to out-of-work Michiganders since the pandemic started. The bulk of that coming from the extended federal benefits.

Will the loss of these benefits make a dent in the worker shortage? Likely a small one, and likely more in the temporary workspaces.

If you're still trying to determine your eligibility for federal benefits and receive it after Sept. 4, you're still entitled to the funds you've qualified for, and should continue to certify for benefits through that time.

Elle Meyers

Elle Meyers

6:12 PM, Apr 12, 2021

State Capitol

Neighborhood Reporter

Elle Meyers

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