Michigan Small Business Owners Express Frustration in Finding Workers

Date: May 03, 2021

Unemployment Agency Promises to Reinstate “Seeking Work” requirement

Small business owners and NFIB member, Tom Little owner of Service Master of Kalamazoo, shared frustrations about trying to hire workers with the House Government Operations Committee at a recent hearing on reinstating the “seeking work” requirement.

Confusion over the work requirement is the result of numerous changes over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the pandemic, Governor Whitmer waived the requirement to seek work as a condition of claiming unemployment benefits in her Executive Orders issued under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. In October of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled the orders unconstitutional.

Shortly afterward, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation that reinstated some of the Unemployment Insurance orders until the end of 2020, however, the language did not include the work search waiver. The Unemployment Agency administrative rules allow the agency to waive the requirement in certain circumstances. To add to the confusion, the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other federal unemployment programs administered by the agency included a requirement that states consider relaxing the “actively seeking work” requirement for those who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits if their ability to do so is affected by COVID-19.

“There needs to be some clarity on the requirement to seek work if someone is claiming unemployment benefits,” said Little. “Right now, it is confusing for employers and claimants as to what is the status quo of the requirement.”

The frustration of small business owners finding workers was echoed by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). “As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, 42% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, a record high reading,” said NFIB Michigan State Director, Charlie Owens. “Owners continue to have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill jobs as they compete with increased unemployment benefits and the pandemic keeping workers out of the labor force.”

Little told the Committee that it is challenging enough to find workers when they are being incentivized by numerous government programs to stay home. It also doesn’t help when no one seems to know whether they are required to look for work as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

Representatives from the Unemployment Insurance Agency told the committee that their goal is to reinstate the work requirement by the end of May.

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