$138 million in stimulus funds. Laying there on the table for the taking. All we have to do is extend unemployment benefits to part-timers and those in job training, something a civilized state should do anyway. House Democrats, who passed this legislation back in May, went on a full-court, statewide press today to urge the Republicans to act.
They have the numbers to back up the urgency.
The Democrats pressed their case at press conferences across the state, citing figures from the state Department of Labor and Economic Growth that show 18,630 workers are expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits this week.
The state expects 99,059 unemployed workers to run out of benefits by the first week in January, including 25,689 in Wayne County, 10,884 in Oakland County, and 10,158 in Macomb County.
"It's really pretty horrific," said Dan Farough, spokesman for the House Democrats and Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. "This will hit local communities hard if we don't get something passed."
The first of two House bills would provide up to an additional 26 weeks of benefits to individuals in declining industries that exhaust regular benefits but are enrolled in a program to prepare for entry into a high-demand occupation. The second bill would allow jobless people to work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits.
What happens to all these people when their benefits run out? Chances are they will hit the state in other ways, putting a severe strain on an already severely strained budget. Mucho applause to the Dems - they need to do this more often. Consider this a warm-up for September, when it will be time to point out all the other things that the Republicans want to do for our citizens.
The Senate Republicans, under the direction of the Glenn Beck lovin' Michigan Chamber of Commerce of course, just say "No!" to helping the unemployed (and their hard hit communities) out. Watch Matt Marsden speak for the entire Senate (wrong), and watch that wording closely. "Ultimately" is an interesting choice here.
"The Senate's not interested in taking one-time money from the federal government that (is) ultimately going to raise taxes on businesses," Marsden said. "It's the opposite (of what should be done) to get people back to work.
The MCoC claims that these measures have to be permanent, and go into the usual threats about business blah, blah, blah... House Democrats disagree, and correctly point out exactly where this money will go - right back into the businesses of Michigan in the form of instant spending. Not like the unemployed are socking it away somewhere.
Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, said there is nothing to prevent Michigan lawmakers from ending the program in two or three years.
"Every dollar of the $138 million (in federal recovery funds) will go directly back into the Michigan economy and support small businesses and large businesses across the state," Meadows said.
Thank God for Gongwer, who gives us an extended Marsden quote tonight on this disagreement about the legal language of the Recovery Act. Once again, he tips his hand and gives it all away. It appears that the original legislation cannot contain a sunset provision, but that states are allowed to make changes in the future if they decide it's necessary.
States are banned from putting a sunset in the measures currently before lawmakers, which would expand eligibility to people receiving worker training, those working part-time or those refusing to take a part-time job. Mr. Meadows said the Legislature could revisit the issue when the stimulus is set to run out.
The reply to that fact?
But Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said, "That's not how we do things."
"We". A direct admission that this about the collective ego of the Senate Republicans, and has nothing to do with whether or not this has to be a "permanent" measure.
Nearly 100,000 people need to remember who turned down the help that would keep a roof over their head and food on their table, and why the Republicans did it. A nice little commercial someday, maybe in the Fall of 2010, should do the trick. Don't you think?