LANSING, Mich., June 26, 2020 — State Rep. John Cherry (D-Flint) delivered testimony this week on House Bill 5898, which he sponsored to distribute direct payments to the tens of thousands of Michiganders still awaiting unemployment benefit determinations. This legislation would allow the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) to provide financial relief to individuals who need immediate support in the form of a one-time payment of $1,000, including those who have been caught in the backlog of UIA cases awaiting the federally required non-monetary employment verification.

“Many Michiganders are suffering through no fault of their own because of the backlog of cases in our underfunded unemployment system,” said Cherry. “Some of our neighbors have now gone months without any form of income while they await determination and have been forced to take out high-interest loans to keep a roof over their head – loans that they can’t make payments on until they have some sort of income. This has dug many into a financial hole that they will be climbing out of for years to come, but the payment I’m proposing will be a crucial first step. Our unemployment system has many shortcomings which must be addressed, but people in our community need help now, and this program will provide immediate assistance.”

HB 5826 would allocate $100 million from the CARES Act toward direct payments of $1,000 to those who are still awaiting determination, prioritizing those who have been waiting the longest. According to the Department of Treasury guidelines, the CARES Act allows for funds to be used for “economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

“The hardship that this has placed on myself, my wife and my daughter has been tremendous,” said Chris Laufman, who has been unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is still awaiting determination of his unemployment benefits. “I have had to apply for several credit cards, which are now maxed out, as they have been my only means of assistance. The interest rate on most of these cards are in the 20 to 30 percent range and I have been unable to make minimum payments without any form of income. My credit score, which impacts everything, is now below 500. My truck payment, my house payment and almost all my bills are still 30 to 60 days behind. This bill would help me out in so many ways, as I’m sure it would for so many other families.”

House Bill 5898 remains under consideration by the House Committee on Government Operations.