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With stalemate in D.C., White House pushes jobless benefits in Michigan

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael
Unemployment benefits will run out for millions of Americans this spring if Congress doesn't extend the unemployment insurance program (an unemployment line in California in 2007).

Anybody who's out of work in Michigan knows they can't get an unemployment check for as long as they used to. 

Ever since the federal government stopped offering emergency benefits extensions at the end of last year, Michiganders can get just 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

They used have up to 99 weeks, back when the recession was at its worst.

For months now, Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been trying to get those extensions up and running again. 

But some Republicans say no.

They argue the benefits are expensive, don't do anything do create new jobs, and may in fact keep people from going back to work. 

The stalemate in Washington D.C. has U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez  taking his message directly to Michigan, where unemployment is sixth-highest in the nation.

"Change doesn't initiate in Washington, change comes to Washington," Perez said by phone last week.  "And I'm hoping your constituents will stand up for the 90,000-plus Michigan residents and their families who have lost this critical lifeline." 

The U.S. Senate voted to extend the jobless benefits before Congress went on break. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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