Activists Push Lawmakers to Extend Pandemic Unemployment Benefits


Republicans must act to prevent lapse in $600 per week support for unemployed


Rallies were held across the state Thursday in a national day of action to call attention to the need to renew federal unemployment benefits. The $600 per week payments to unemployed workers are set to expire this week without urgent action in Congress. Events took place in Detroit outside US Sen. Gary Peters’ office in the McNamara Federal Building, the Grandville office of Rep. Bill Huizenga, in Shelby Township at the office of Rep. Paul Mitchell and the home of Rep. Fred Upton in St. Joseph.


Constituents thanked Sen. Peters for his work to create the benefit and called on others in Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits for those left jobless in the wake of the pandemic by supporting the HEROES Act.


“More than a million Michiganders are unemployed through no fault of their own. Expanded unemployment benefits have allowed them to ride out the storm rather than lose their homes and fall into poverty,” said Rev. Jill Hardt-Zundel, the Pastor at Central United Methodist Church of Detroit. “The Trump Administration created this mess by completely failing to control the virus. Trump and Republicans in the Senate must take responsibility: join Sen. Peters and protect the unemployed until this crisis is over.” She also noted that Sen. Peters helped author legislation called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act to expand eligibility for unemployment that was enacted as part of the CARES Act.


While Sen. Peters was working in Washington with the Senate in session, he said “While segments of our economy begin reopening, we must remember that Michigan families are still hurting – and many are still struggling to find work. I support the House-passed extension of this critical assistance, and as the Senate considers the next phase of Coronavirus relief, I’ll be pressing to ensure those who remain furloughed or unemployed because of this pandemic have the resources and support they need to get through this.”


According to the National Employment Law Project, more than 1.5 million people in Michigan are receiving unemployment. The additional spending from federal unemployment benefits is currently supporting 194,000 jobs. Eliminating the federal unemployment benefit would cut unemployed workers' average weekly support 67% to $328 per week in Michigan, which is the equivalent of $17,000 per year. Clearly, families cannot support themselves on this poverty-level benefit during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.


“More than a million Michiganders are unemployed through no fault of their own. Expanded unemployment benefits have allowed them to ride out the storm rather than lose their homes and fall into poverty,” said Josh Roskam of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE) local 26 at the rally in Grandville, Michigan. “ The Trump Administration created this mess by completely failing to control the virus. Trump and Republicans in the Senate must take responsibility and protect the unemployed until this crisis is over,”


Rev. Alexander Steward, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Richmond wrote a letter to Rep. Mitchell describing the impact of the pandemic and its economic effects on his congregation. Although Rev. Steward couldn’t attend the Shelby Twp. event, his letter was read to the people there. In it, he thanked Rep. Mitchell for supporting the CARES Act, which provided for the ones who couldn’t work and allowed the ones who still were to isolate themselves if there was a chance they could infect others. “Fortunately, you have the opportunity to continue to support the people of Michigan through voting for the HEROES Act to maintain benefits for those most needing it in our community,” the letter read. “Regardless, of what side of the aisle we are on, I believe that the health and welfare of our community should be of your utmost priority as we move forward.”


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