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Supplemental Offers Unemployed $1,000 To Go Back To Work

May 4, 2021

Unemployed workers would be eligible for a $1,000 grant for leaving the unemployment system and returning to work under a supplemental bill approved Thursday morning by the House Appropriations Committee. 

HB 4420, sponsored by Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), includes a $400 million allocation from federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds for Return to Work grants. 
 
Overall, the supplemental allocates $3.6 billion, $2.5 billion of which is federal COVID-19 relief funding made possible from the flexible pool of money made available by the President Joe Biden COVID recovery package. 
 
The committee reported HB 4420 Thursday on a party-line 17-9-3 vote. Republicans supported it. Three Democrats passed, but none voted for the extra spending legislation. 
 
The Return to Work grant program requires the state to develop an online form for individuals to verify their employment and removal from unemployment benefits. They would have to certify that they’ve been employed for at least 80 hours over a four-week period to qualify. 
 
Wendy Block, of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, told the committee Wednesday that employers across all industries and regions of the state are reporting extreme difficulty finding qualified workers.  

 
“They are paying over $15 an hour, in some cases $22 and up,” Block said. “They are offering vacation pay, overtime pay, sick benefits, health care, dental, you name it. They are offering signing bonuses, retention bonuses, referral bonuses and they still can’t find the help that they need.” 
 
Block told of one business owner who posted an ad on Indeed and got three applicants. That owner needs to hire more than three. 
 
“When she called for interviews, one hung up on her,” Block said. “One didn’t answer or call back. One showed up for the interview and accepted the job on site — because that is where people are, they are offering jobs on site, saying ‘will you take this job right now?’ — and that person accepted and didn’t show up on day one.” 
 
Between federal relief unemployment and state unemployment, someone can get $662 per week. That equals $34,424 a year, she noted. 
 
“To be frank, the federal government has created a situation where it is in someone’s better financial interest to stay on unemployment than it is to take that next job, and that is unfortunate, but that is where we are,” Block said. 
 
But Thursday, Democrats offered a string of 23 amendments to the bill, one of which was a proposal by Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) to replace the Return to Work grants with a series of “career and higher education investments.” 
 
That amendment failed, as did nearly all others, in 12-17 party-line votes. 
 
The only amendment accepted by the committee was one by Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) to expand the number of employees at veterans homes eligible for premium pay. That would include social workers, activity staff, dietary service staff or other facility staff, Hood explained. It passed in a unanimous vote. 
 
HB 4420 appropriates $3.6 billion to various state department budgets for fiscal year (FY) 2020-21. Of that, $992.3 million is from the state’s General Fund. 
 
A supplemental spending plan that moved out of committee Wednesday including the “inflexible” funding from the Biden plan and leftover federal stimulus from the President Donald Trump era. 
 
The bill includes $781 million for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, $410 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), $109.5 million for Corrections, $250 for Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and $1 billion for Transportation. 
 
The bill includes: 
 
– $40 million for settlement payments in the Does v Department of Corrections case. 
 
– $100 million to provide a $20 per Medicaid day increase to nursing homes that have experienced a 5% or greater decline in their daily census. 
 
– $215 million to create a competitive grant program to increase the number of long-term pediatric psychiatric inpatient hospitals and to build a new Hawthorn Center for children and adolescents. 
 
– $17.5 million to provide premium pay for frontline workers throughout DHHS. 
 
– $250 million to set up a Natural Gas Infrastructure Expansion Fund to help utilities reach unserved and underserved areas, provide capacity for demand growth in underserved areas, and provide customer assistance programs to convert residences from more expensive fuel sources to natural gas. 

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