Update 11:33 a.m.:
Michigan Congressman John Dingell (D) has released a statement condemning Snyder's signing of the new law. In a written statement, Representative Dingell said:
"This law is another in a long string of Republican assaults on working families and unions. In one fell swoop, the Republicans in Lansing have made it so that people in Michigan receive state employment benefits for a shorter period of time than anywhere else in the nation. Michigan does face a budget crisis, but it cannot be solved by declaring war on the unemployed, who - now more than ever - need all the help they can get in order to support their families and find new jobs."
Original Post 10:52 a.m.:
Governor Rick Snyder today signed legislation extending jobless benefits. The law will allow 35,000 Michiganders to receive an addition 20 weeks of federal jobless benefits. Their benefits would have expired April 1st. In a written statement, Snyder says:
"These benefits are a lifeline for many Michigan families who are struggling in this challenging economy... Cutting them off so abruptly would have jeopardized the well-being of those who are trying hard to find work. Now that we have continued this safety net, we must renew our focus on improving Michigan's economic climate. We will continue driving forward with our job-creating reforms so that fewer people need to rely on unemployment benefits."
Democrats pushed for the extension, but many eventually opposed the final version. The final legislation was amended to reduce the number state jobless benefits from 26 to 20 weeks.
Republicans say reducing the length of state benefits will reduce the burden on state businesses that pay into the state jobless benefits pool. By cutting the number weeks of state jobless benefits, future unemployed Michiganders will be eligible for fewer weeks of additional federal unemployment benefits.
According to the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, the average unemployed Michigander uses about 19 weeks of jobless benefits. Michigan's unemployment rate declined to 10.4% in February. There were slightly less than a half million people in Michigan without a job who wanted one.
Michigan's jobless rate is still about 2 percentage points higher than the national average. But the state's jobless rate has been declining since September 2009.