West Michigan State Representative Luke Meerman has proposed Michigan stop using federal extended unemployment benefit payments amounting to $300 per week on top of state benefits.  Governor Gretchen Whitmer appears to be listening. And acting on the recommendation.

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The Governor is talking with some state business groups about the idea and so far the response has been positive.  WXYZ-TV  is among the first media outlets in Michigan to reveal the discussions.  The station reports the idea being reviewed is to take that federal funding intended for unemployment assistance and turn it around and offer that additional $300 weekly to people who have been unemployed but agree to return to work.  At this point, it appears the offer will be for people in select occupations or returning to work at specific companies. But the discussions are in the early stages. The station reports the initial idea is to offer that return to work bonus for people returning to work at businesses that are included in Michigan’s work-share program. The offer would tentatively run through early September.

Governor Whitmer is reviewing the program outline with the Detroit Regional Chamber. WXYZ-TV reports the idea is going over well. The station talked with Brad Williams, the chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations.  He says, "We think anything that is going to expand our workforce is really going to help businesses get people back on the job and provide the level of services their customers have come to expect over the years." Williams says Michigan’s workforce has been cut by more than 10 percent since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The reasons include everything from businesses forced to close by the Governor’s virus controls and unable to reopen, to general economic conditions caused by the impact of the virus. "Sometimes it's because of health reasons, sometimes it's because of pay and benefits and sometimes it's because of daycare costs," says Williams. "When you talk about labor shortages, the reasons are complicated and the solutions are complicated"

There’s no word when the program will be presented to the state legislature to approve a funding mechanism but the best guess is it won’t take long. The idea of a return to work bonus was not included in the Governor’s recently announced “Economic Jump Start Plan”.

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