Lawmakers focus on unemployment benefits as House reconvenes in Lansing

Lawmakers are tasked with crafting path forward amid pandemic
Posted at 10:18 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 22:18:49-04

LANSING, Mich. — Lawmakers at the Capitol are working to craft the path forward in the state’s COVID-19 response.

With the House reconvening in Lansing Tuesday, at the top of the checklist for lawmakers is reinstating the extended unemployment benefits, that were struck down after the Supreme Court ruled against Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“We’ve been standing ready and are ready on some of these critical issues, certainly concerning unemployment insurance, and making sure that it has the extra extension that was a part of the EOs,” State Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, R-Norton Shores told FOX 17 when asked about priorities last week.

"We're talking about the extension but we got to make sure people are getting benefits, and our constituents continue to struggle to get those benefits so we want to review that and have that be a part of it as well," VanWoerkom added.

Though how to get there, is what’s being challenged.

Last week the GOP-led Senate passed a bill that would extend unemployment benefits largely matching Whitmer’s old executive order.

However the Senate tie-barred it to a series of bills that protects businesses against COVID-related lawsuits.

Some Democratic lawmakers are taking exception to that, calling for it to be amended before its voted-on Tuesday, arguing it doesn’t keep employees safe.

“These business immunity bills are very, very wide-reaching, they have very serious implications we're not just talking about preventing frivolous lawsuit lawsuits, we are talking about giving bad actors who have not done their due diligence to keep their employees safe immunity from the repercussions and consequences of those actions,” State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia said.

“We have got to make sure that we preserve the benefits that those executive orders around unemployment offered, but we need to remove this tie bar,” Pohutsky added.

Unemployment just one facet of what’s being worked on, a vote is also expected on a senate bill that just passed allowing local municipalities to continue holding virtual meetings.

Lawmakers will also likely discuss whether or not to enforce a mask mandate within the House and Senate chambers.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist called on Republican leaders in the legislature to take action in a letter penned last week saying, “I acknowledge that mask wearing has become politically charged, but i am calling on you to join me in putting politics aside on this issue.”