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

War on Poverty: Part 2

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s now-famous State of the Union address that launched the War on Poverty:

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

While some pundits will undoubtedly seize the anniversary as an opportunity to wrongly declare the War on Poverty a failure, we should instead recommit to LBJ’s vision, as there is plenty of evidence that it worked. And what an incredible return on investment! (more…)

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…)

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…)

Making Michigan truly a ‘comeback state’

As the annual Mackinac Policy Conference continues, we’re sure to hear a lot about Michigan as the “comeback state.” (Just check out #MPC13 on Twitter and Gov. Rick Snyder, who tweets under @onetoughnerd.)

Sponsored by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, the conference brings together business people and politicians on Mackinac Island for an annual confab on policy. (more…)

Michigan African American unemployment highest

May 16, 2013
Contact: Judy Putnam at Michigan League for Public Policy (517) 487-5436
 
Michigan has highest unemployment rate for African Americans in nation

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan workers were hit hard by the Great Recession but the state’s African American workers continue to suffer a far higher unemployment rate, a new Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief finds, with Michigan’s black unemployment rate the highest among the 24 states where it can be measured.

In Ongoing Joblessness in Michigan: Unemployment rate for African Americans tops in nation, more than double the state’s white rate, EPI researchers Douglas Hall and Mary Gable find that the African American unemployment rate in Michigan reached 18.7 percent—nearly one in five of the state’s black workers—in the fourth quarter of 2012, about two-and-a-half times that of the white unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. (more…)

Still unemployed? Sequestration hurts!

To many, the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration may seem like an abstraction, but Michigan long-term unemployed workers are feeling it in a very real-world way.

Workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks collect Emergency Unemployment Compensation until they find a job. Because EUC is fully federally funded, it is subject to the across-the-board cuts demanded by sequestration.

For Michigan workers collecting EUC, this translates into a 10.7% cut in their weekly benefit beginning with their first payment this month. (more…)

One-third of working families are low income?

You read the headline correctly. If we define low-income families as those with household income below 200% of the poverty line (the definition used by many state and national organizations that address poverty issues), then 32 percent of working families in Michigan and in the United States as a whole are low income.

A new report by the Working Poor Families Project shows that Michigan ranks right in the middle (26 out of 50) among states in the percentage of working families with household incomes below 200% of poverty.  For a single mother with two children, that means an income below $32,246; for a two-parent family with two children, it is $45,622. (more…)

The Good, the Fair, and the Ugly

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey Report contains the good, the fair and the bad. The report, released Wednesday, has a sample size of 100,000 households and provides the official numbers on poverty, income and health insurance coverage for the United States. Here are some of the key findings:

The Ugly – Income: There was a 1.2% decline in median household income and a 1.6% growth in income inequality in 2011. The number of middle-income households is decreasing while the number of households in extreme poverty has grown by almost 50%. Also, 6.6% of all Americans lived in households with income at or below 50% of the federal poverty level ($11,406 for a family of four) in 2011.

The Fair – Poverty: After three consecutive years of increases, the poverty rate seems to be flattening out. The 46.2 million Americans (15% of the population) who lived in poverty in 2011 was not significantly different than 2010. This may be due to an increase in the number of people working full-time, year round. The number of year-round, full-time workers in the bottom income quintile of households increased 17.3% between 2010 and 2011, indicating that many of the new jobs that are being created are low-wage jobs.

The Good – Health Insurance: The number of Americans without health insurance decreased from 16.3% in 2010 to 15.7% in 2011, a 3.8% drop. The increase in health care coverage is likely attributable to two things:

  1. The growth in government-sponsored health insurance – the percentage of people covered by government health insurance (Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, etc) increased for the fifth consecutive year
  2. The increase in young adults under age 26 receiving health coverage under their parents’ health insurance as provided under the Affordable Care Act. There was a 7% decrease in the number of people ages 19 to 25 who were uninsured.

Uninsurance Rate by Age

(more…)

New evidence bolsters importance of EITC

How important are family-friendly tax credits in helping vulnerable children?

New research finds that the Earned Income Tax Credit – a tried and true poverty reducer – may be even better for children than we thought, according to a recent paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In Michigan, we’ve sliced the EITC and other programs that help families through tough times. We’ve ended cash assistance for many, made it harder to get food assistance and cut Unemployment Insurance from 26 to 20 weeks. Perhaps the most damaging policy decision last year by Gov. Snyder and the Legislature was to dramatically reduce the state EITC from 20% of the federal credit to 6% to help pay for business tax cuts. (more…)

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