Michigan has become the first state to reduce unemployment benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks. Will other states in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere follow its lead?
The move came in legislation signed Monday by Gov. Rick Snyder that extended federal unemployment benefits to state residents. Without the extension, those unemployed residents would have lost federal benefits on Friday.
But the legislation also contained an amendment, backed by Republicans, that reduces state-financed unemployment benefits, beginning with new filers in 2012. People who lose their jobs also would remain eligible for federal assistance.
The state’s unemployment rate is 11 percent, down from a peak of 14.3 percent in 2009, but roughly two percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. Democrats had called on Snyder to veto the bill and return the measure to the legislature. After Snyder signed it on Monday, party members voiced their displeasure.
Snyder’s action is getting national attention, as in this front page story from the New York Times.
Michigan’s move may be followed quickly by other states including Florida, where the state house has approved a similar move.
The cut in unemployment benefits comes as Snyder is proposing deep cuts in the state budget as well as other changes aimed at saving the state money. One of his more controversial steps, signed into law last week, gives more power to emergency managers to change or even eliminate union contracts. Those moves have angered union members, who are regularly protesting outside Snyder’s office.
What do you think of the reduction in unemployment benefits? Should other states follow suit?