Ramp up pressure on Unemployment Insurance

“I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”  ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders after his election in 1932.

“I don’t think there is a great sense of pressure on our members.”  ~ Deputy Whip Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., responding to a question about renewing long-term Unemployment Insurance benefits, 2014.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill to extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation Monday evening with bipartisan support and with benefits retroactive to Dec. 28 when the program expired. Yet U.S. House leaders show little interest in bringing it up for a vote.

The complaints from House leadership are that the bill is not paid for and the retroactivity would create too great of a challenge to state Unemployment Insurance offices. However, the Senate bill is paid for and the chief of unemployment insurance operations in Nevada (which led the country in unemployment for more than four years) has said his office is up to the challenge.

Since 2007, Michigan’s unemployment rate has exceeded 7%. In February, the rate was 7.7% with 363,000 Michigan workers still jobless, a significant number having looked for work for more than six months.

Michigan‘s continuing need is one reason that several members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation have taken the lead in demanding renewal of the program. The House version of the Senate bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee Monday.

It is important that Michigan’s Republican delegation put pressure on their leadership to take up the bill in the House. Many of them represent districts in which there are a large number of workers who are out of work. Those workers and their families will depend on the long-term benefits if they still have not found work after six months.

If you live in the district of any of the Michigan congressional districts below, please call your members of Congress and ask them to tell Speaker of the House John Boehner that Michigan workers are still in hardship and to bring Rep. Kildee’s bill up for a vote. There needs to be that great sense of pressure that Rep. Cole says is missing.

  • Benishek, Dan: 202-225-4735
  • Huizenga, Bill: 202-225-4401
  • Amash, Justin: 202-225-3831
  • Camp, Dave: 202-225-3561
  • Upton, Fred: 202-225-3761
  • Walberg, Tim: 202-225-6276
  • Rogers, Mike: 202-225-4872
  • Miller, Candice: 202-225-2106
  • Bentivolio, Kerry: 202-225-8171

– Peter Ruark

Raise Michigan raises hope

The possibility of a long-overdue increase to Michigan’s minimum wage is on the horizon with the kickoff of the Raise Michigan campaign to put the issue before voters on the fall ballot.

If successful, it will raise Michigan’s $7.40 an hour wage minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also includes a gradual increase of the $2.65/hour “tipped” wage for restaurant servers.

With so many problems to report on – rising income inequality, growing number of low-income working moms and shrinking windows of opportunity for our young people – it’s good to be able to talk about a positive solution.

Raising the wage would reduce the state’s poverty rate, decrease reliance on state assistance and boost local economies.

An increase would boost the incomes of nearly 1 million Michigan workers. Despite oft-repeated statements from opponents to the contrary, only 13% of that group are teens. Most are 20 and over and many are parents. In fact, 15% of all children in the state have a parent earning the minimum wage.

The proposal will index it to inflation. Without indexing, the minimum wage loses purchasing power over time. Since 1968, the minimum wage has lost more than 30% of its value, despite a few increases along the way.

Make sure to stay informed on this important development. There’s much work ahead – the campaign has until May 28 to collect nearly 259,000 valid signatures and there will be many volunteer opportunities. Make sure to connect at www.raisemichigan.com.

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

Unemployment drama redux

It is December again. Along with the annual holiday season comes what is beginning to feel like an annual drama: Congress approaching year’s end without reauthorizing long-term Unemployment Insurance benefits.

If Congress does not reauthorize Emergency Unemployment Compensation, up to 189,700 Michigan workers could lose benefits as they continue to look for jobs: 43,800 immediately, an additional 86,500 if their unemployment goes beyond 20 weeks before June 2014, and 59,400 more if they go beyond 20 weeks between July and December 2014. (more…)

A gift for the future

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for e-news

 The holidays are upon us, and I’d like to offer Michigan the gift that keeps on giving – 10 ways to invest in our future.

The generations that came before us knew what it took to build a Mighty Mac, freeways and strong universities. Yet today, when you hear about economic development, you often hear about tax cuts, not investments. We can’t cut our way to prosperity. We simply must pay it forward for future generations and give them the investments they need for a strong economy.

A recent report by Senior Policy Analyst Pat Sorenson offers 10 ways to invest in our economy. It’s the League’s gift for the future:

1.
Invest
In early childhood.
2. Make sure all kids get
a great education – and a diploma!
3. Make college affordable 4. Encourage good health
with access to physical and mental health treatment 5. Offer help
with basic needs to those who cannot work or who cannot find
a job. 6. Invest in community services to attract businesses and young
professionals. 7. Generate revenue by strengthening the personal income tax,
based on the ability to pay. 8. Make sure businesses pay their fair share 9. Bring sales tax
into the modern age by taxing services and Internet sales. 10. End ineffective tax breaks
and put funds
into what works.

Happy holidays, and make sure to sign up for our Dec. 9 policy forum!

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

Walking the walk with infant mortality

Factors that may drive Michigan’s tragically high infant mortality rate include stress, unemployment, poverty and neighborhood safety in addition to what might be thought of as the more traditional reasons, such as lack of healthcare or poor safe sleep practices, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The report takes a broad look at why Michigan’s rate is so high and in particular why an African American infant in Michigan is 2.6 more times likely to die before reaching the child’s first birthday than a white infant. (more…)

As economy improves, food assistance goes down

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that spending for the food assistance program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) fell slightly in fiscal year 2013. This trend is expected to continue as the economy recovers and fewer low-income people qualify for SNAP.

As seen in previous recessions, this is expected enrollment behavior for SNAP: Caseloads go up when unemployment rises and the economy struggles and then they go down when the economy recovers and more jobs become available. The recent increase in SNAP caseloads is due almost exclusively to the deep recession and our current slow recovery.  The Congressional Budget Office predicts that SNAP spending will return to its 1995 levels by 2019. (more…)

Weakening worker protections

Charles Dickens created his novel Oliver Twist to portray the brutal exploitation he saw in the workhouses in his city of London. (We now know that the laborers were treated even more ruthlessly in real life.William Blake wrote about extremely young boys being sold as chimney sweepers, whose lives were cut short from all the coal dust they breathed on the job. Upton Sinclair painted a grisly picture of the conditions and dangers in Chicago’s meatpacking plants. And John Steinbeck wrote about what happens when exploited workers attempt to organize a union.

These works of literature sparked moral outrage in the 19th and 20th centuries and eventually led to many of the labor protections we have come to expect in the developed world today. A new paper from the Economic Policy Institute, however, shows a coordinated effort across the country to roll back or weaken state labor laws on child labor, the minimum wage, overtime, workplace safety and other labor protections. (more…)

Ten steps to boost Michigan’s economy

new report by the League outlines 10 steps Michigan must take to improve its economy, refuting the myth that tax cuts are a shortcut to economic prosperity. Included in the report are strategies for investing in the services and infrastructure needed to create jobs and fuel economic growth, as well as tax changes that modernize and strengthen the state’s revenue system.

It is an agenda for long-term economic prosperity that includes investments in education from early childhood through higher education, access to the health and mental health services needed for a healthy workforce, basic income security for those who cannot work or find jobs, and support for the community services businesses and consumers rely on. (more…)

KIDS COUNT: First eight years

Legislation gaining attention in Lansing would force third-graders behind in reading to redo a grade. A new KIDS COUNT policy report out today offers some better options.

Michigan policymakers are addressing the importance of investing in early childhood by expanding the state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds, a key recommendation in the report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. But the administration and Legislature fall down on another important recommendation: Support for low-income families. (more…)

Not all blessed with food

Next month many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal and lots of good food. Not everyone will be so blessed, though.

On Nov. 1, 1.8 million children, veterans, seniors and others in Michigan will see their food assistance reduced. Over the next year, food assistance will be cut $183 million in our state alone. (more…)

Next Page »