LANSING – The House Democratic Caucus today continued their fight to help Michigan’s unemployed workers. Democrats pressed for action on House Bill 4619, sponsored by State Representative Jim Ananich (D-Flint), which restores Michigan’s unemployment eligibility to 26 weeks, the amount that had been available until Republicans reduced it to 20 weeks last year. Democrats also pushed for action on House Bill 5144, sponsored by State Representative Charles Smiley (D-Burton), which would give small businesses a tax incentive to hire unemployed veterans. “This short-sighted reduction in unemployment didn’t simply take away six weeks of critical support for unemployed families,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek). “It also meant that Lansing tossed aside twice as much support for those families from the federal government – this is money that Michigan taxpayers paid into the federal government that will now be sent to other states or spent elsewhere. By supporting House Bill 4619 and other proposals, House Democrats have long been standing arm-in-arm with Michigan workers and their families. It is well past the time for House Republicans to come on board and support this common-sense legislation.” Beginning in January, any new worker seeking unemployment benefits suffers from this reduction. Democrats introduced HB 4619 last year to try to prevent that change, but it has languished in the House Committee on Commerce without a hearing since May 5. The Democrats moved to discharge it from the committee on Thursday, but Republicans refused to act. By limiting residents’ benefits to 20 weeks, Michigan’s unemployed workers are eligible for far fewer federal unemployment benefits. With the federal government extending unemployment benefits, Michigan’s eligibility cut will mean 11-14 fewer weeks of federal unemployment assistance for the state’s unemployed workers. Michigan’s current unemployment rate sits at 9.3 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The world’s economies are changing and jobs now demand more schooling than at any point in our history,” said State Representative Jon Switalski (D-Warren), Democratic vice chair of the Commerce Committee. “Many unemployed residents would benefit greatly from returning to school to receive additional training or obtaining a degree, but Michigan’s limited unemployment system does not support our workers long enough for them to achieve this goal. Extending unemployment eligibility will help our residents prepare for successful 21st century careers that demand a highly skilled workforce by giving them the time they need to retool their skillset.” “Cutting unemployment insurance was a mistake by Lansing politicians made worse by Washington politicians and now Michigan families are paying the price,” said State Representative Jim Ananich (D-Flint), sponsor of House Bill 4619. “Providing support for these workers helps them pay their bills and keep food on their tables. It also helps local businesses create jobs.” The recession has been particularly hard on Michigan’s veterans, one of the highest unemployed demographics. A recent Congressional report found that Michigan ranked as the worst state in the country for out-of-work veterans with an unemployment rate of nearly 30 percent. House Bill 5144, the “Hire MI Heroes”?plan, would give small businesses with less than 100 employees up to $4,000 in tax credit for every eligible veteran hired. To be eligible, a veteran must have been honorably or generally discharged and not have had a full-time job in the 60 days before being hired. The bill was introduced in the House last year, but suffered from Republican neglect and remained in the House Committee on Tax Policy without action since Nov. 3, 2011. The Democrats tried to discharge the bill from committee on Thursday, but Republicans blocked it and prevented the Legislature from delivering help to the state’s unemployed veterans. “My Republican colleagues talk about helping veterans, but when given the opportunity to do so they refused,”said State Representative Charles Smiley (D-Burton), a member of the House Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. “Michigan’s veterans have risked their lives to protect our freedoms, the least we can do is give them a fighting chance at a good job when they return home. This legislation will benefit both our state’s small businesses and our servicemen and women.”