The bad news comes as Michigan's 13.6 percent unemployment remains among the nation's highest. The rate has been dropping, but around 415,000 Michigan residents still rely on unemployment checks of around $300 a week.
About 87,000 of Michigan workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits will run out of federal unemployment assistance this weekend if Congress fails to extend the benefits, state Unemployment Insurance Agency director Stephen Geskey said Tuesday. Weekly unemployment checks paid with federal funds pump $70 million a week into the state economy, enabling many residents to buy groceries, pay their rent or mortgage payments, or keep gas in their cars.
"The consequences are dire" if the benefits end, Geskey warned at a news conference. "I just don't know what those folks are going to do. ... Going from $300 a week to nothing, it's scary."
Nationally, payments will continue to phase out for more than 200,000 people a week if a bill extending the aid until Nov. 30 doesn't pass, adding to the more than 1 million who already have lost benefits. House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., warned Republicans on the House floor Tuesday that hundreds of thousands more will be cut off if Congress doesn't act. Republicans have said they'll vote for the extension, but don't want the $33.9 billion cost added to the national debt.
Another House vote could come as early as Wednesday.
A record number of Michigan residents has been requesting food stamps and Medicaid assistance, with 30,000 new requests coming in each month. Those numbers will increase if tens of thousands of people start losing their unemployment checks, state Department of Human Services director Ismael Ahmed said.
One in every four Michigan residents is receiving some type of government assistance to cope with the recession, and Ahmed expects the number to climb above the 2.5 million being helped now.
Michigan may not be able to offer as many health care services to the needy, however, since Congress also hasn't voted to extend extra Medicaid payments to the states past Dec. 31. That could leave Michigan with $500 million less for health care than expected.
Meanwhile, a program that has enrolled more than 130,000 jobless workers in retraining classes will be able to help only a limited number of new applicants since federal funding for the program is being drastically reduced.
The 60,000 people already in the No Worker Left Behind Program will continue to take classes or other training, and about 20,000 people on a waiting list Monday will still be helped. But few new applicants are being accepted, Department of Labor and Economic Growth deputy director Andy Levin said.
While the program hasn't been able to help every participant get work, 59 percent of the unemployed or underemployed workers who have completed the program have obtained new jobs.