FLINT – State Representative Jim Ananich (Flint) and State Senator John Gleason (D-Flushing) joined unemployed workers and local advocates at the Genesee/Shiawasee Michigan Works office today to discuss threats to the unemployment system and a plan for helping people get back to work. Actions in Lansing and Washington have put critical support and retraining resources at risk, and local lawmakers are calling for changes that will help create more job opportunities.

“A strong unemployment insurance system is key to our ability to get people back to work and to support our local economy,” said Ananich, who has sponsored numerous proposals to strengthen unemployment insurance and help create jobs. “Our common sense proposals are the right thing to do for Michigan’s families, workers, and businesses.”

The Democratic plan outlined today includes:

  • Incentives for small businesses who hire people who are unemployed (SB 852), with greater incentives for hiring veterans (HB 5144) and those who have exhausted all their benefits (SB 851).

  • Creating a work sharing program (HB 4516) to help prevent layoffs and keep workers on the job, which Governor Snyder advocated for in his message last week on workforce development.

  • Preventing employers from discriminating against those who are unemployed by only allowing applications from people who currently have a job (HB 4675).

  • Restoring Michigan’s unemployment insurance back to 26 weeks (HB 4619) – supporters may have hoped unemployment wouldn’t still be as great a problem by the time these cuts kick in, but it obviously still is.

  • And finally, Congress must extend federal unemployment benefits.

“We need to be focused on ways to help middle-class families lift themselves back into the workforce, not take away the very lifeline that they rely on to put food on their table,” said Gleason. “Most of these men and women are out of work through no fault of their own, many of them jobless thanks to an unfair trade system that they had no control over.”

A recent national study by the Economic Policy Institute found that Michigan stood to lose more than 20,000 jobs next year if Congress did not act to extend the unemployment insurance funding. The most recent jobs report revealed that Michigan’s unemployment rate was still more than 10 percent.

“Helping give breaks to small businesses to hire veterans is a win-win for everyone,” said Rep. Smiley, sponsor of HB 5144. “It’s the least we can do for the brave men and women who have already sacrificed so much for us.”

The Michigan League of Human Resources also recently released a report that found Michigan had one of the highest unemployment levels in the Midwest, yet one of the weakest unemployment insurance programs:http://www.milhs.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/FallingShortUI.pdf

“The people we serve everyday are working hard to be retrained with valuable skills that they can apply to new, good-paying careers,” said Alicia Booker, President and CEO of Genesee/Shiawassee Michigan Works. “They depend on these resources to keep them going while they search for new jobs and train for new opportunities.”