Advocacy News – April 27, 2021
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, talent literally left the building. Many Michigan employers are now looking to rebuild their businesses but are reporting extreme difficulty in finding the employees they need. But what can be done?
Despite a relatively high unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in Michigan and 83,000 jobs available on the state’s talent website, Pure Michigan Talent Connect, Chamber members across all industries are reporting difficulty finding employees to fill much-needed open positions. Many need those employees to expand capacity, expand hours and shifts and/or reopen for the summer season.
The problem is multi-faceted. In some situations, there’s a skills gap. In other situations, potential employees are reluctant to take a job or increase hours for fear of losing other benefits they rely on (e.g., food stamps [SNAP], Medicaid or Healthy Michigan, childcare or affordable housing subsidies, etc.). Some employees still have children at home needing to be supervised as they attend virtual school. Others yet remain fearful of COVID or they or a family member have a health condition that puts them at increased risk.
In some cases, however, employers are finding potential employees reluctant to take that next job and come off unemployment because they stand to lose income. Under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), individuals receive an extra $300 per week on top of their state unemployment benefits. This program runs through September 6, 2021. For some, the unemployment benefit can meet or slightly exceed $662 per week, which works out to be the equivalent of $34,424 per year or $15 per hour (i.e., if the individual were consistently working 40 hours per week).
The high unemployment benefit has created a situation whereby some individuals are reluctant to come off of unemployment and accept a $10-$15 an hour job and even more so if that job is not full-time.
The Chamber has approached Legislature about this problem and is currently working on a number of proposals to help address this problem and get Michiganders back to work.
On Tuesday afternoon, we will be testifying before the House Oversight Committee in support of the Unemployment Insurance Agency reinstating work search and work registration activities. The UIA is using discretion given to them under the unemployment statute to keep these requirements on hold.
We will be advocating that work search and work registration requirements should be reinstated for all claimants as a condition of receiving UI benefits. This will allow entities focused on reemployment and job training to get back to work servicing claimants and working to connect them with employers and job training and employment opportunities.
Another effort we are actively pushing includes using federal dollars to build a “Return to Work Grant Program.” The program contained in House Bill 4420 would support one-time grants of $1,000 to unemployed individuals returning to the workforce and staying employed for four weeks or longer. This $400 million investment would incentivize eligible claimants to reattach to the workforce.
In addition to these efforts, the Chamber is working with a coalition to help make child care more affordable as well as with an affordable housing coalition.
We would encourage you to share stories with us about the challenges you are facing as it relates to hiring. This will better help us develop public policy proposals that could prove helpful.
Please contact Wendy Block with comments, thoughts and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.