LANSING — State Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) introduced House Bill 5742 today to increase state unemployment benefits making it easier for those suffering job loss due to downsizing or other reasons to provide for their families while they look for new job opportunities.

“Compared to other states Michigan falls far short when it comes to this necessary support for those looking to get back on their feet,” said Sabo. “Unemployment benefits only cover 20 weeks, we have one of the lowest weekly maximum benefits and a ridiculously small dependent benefit that often jeopardizes a person’s ability to take care of their family in a time of crisis. It’s time to stop punishing people for losing their jobs because a business is cutting back or leaving the state.”

 Sabo’s plan would raise the weekly benefit to $542 calculated at 58 percent of the state average weekly wages, which is how that benefit was calculated prior to 1994 when it was changed to a set rate. Currently, workers receive $362 per week. The bill also increases the dependent benefit to $20 per dependent from the current $6, and allows for 6 dependents for a maximum of $120 that would be added to the weekly benefit amount. Finally, the bill increases the benefit period from 20 to 26 weeks.

“Losing one’s job is always demoralizing, and our current unemployment benefits make the whole situation harder for workers and their families,” said Sabo. “The governor keeps saying our economy is growing, so it’s time to put our money where our mouth is and help those who have been left behind by that growth. Increasing benefits allows workers to focus on finding a new job without worrying how they’re going to pay bills and keep food on the table. When we invest in people, they invest in our state. Helping those struggling through no fault of their own helps us all in the long run.”

Sabo’s legislation builds on work House Democrats did last year to help make whole those who were falsely accused of unemployment fraud due to a faulty computer program used by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. In December, 2017 a bipartisan package of bills reforming the agency was signed into law, but more work needs to be done. Democrats have introduced bills to do more to help those who were falsely accused of fraud, and Sabo’s bill this year would improve the system for all workers and their families