Reparations in Detroit, a $300 bonus for Michigan workers, tree cutting in Livonia

Michigan is looking to use the federal government's $300 bonus check that unemployed workers have been collecting as a back-to-work incentive.

An expansion of a current state work program, the new plan would add money on top of wages already being earned.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the plan to expand access to the bonus during her child care press conference Monday, although she did not specify when the program would start or for how long.

"We're going to use the federal $300 per week in unemployment benefits to our advantage, so we can incentivize people to get back to work," said Whitmer, who spoke in Troy.

Currently, the bonus is only for specific employees that can offset lost wages by receiving the payment and returning to work in a reduced fashion.

Employers signed up for the State's Workshare Program are currently the only businesses eligible to tack on a $300 bonus on top of an employee's weekly wage. Whitmer is currently working with lawmakers to expand access to the bonus that wouldn't only include businesses hiring back employees it let go.

According to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the WorkShare program allows employers to bring back employees with reduced hours while those workers collect partial unemployment that offsets lost wages. 

"This boost is available to workers who receive benefits who were brought back by an employer participating in the work share program," she said.

The requirements of the current program are that employers:

  • Must have paid wages for at least 12 of the previous quarter
  • Wages must have been reduced by at least 15-45%
  • Experience account balance must have a positive reserve

But under the new proposal, any employee would receive the $300 bonus on top of a wage after they've been hired.

"This is how we encourage people to get back to work without paying a price or making false choices," she said.

Whitmer called the plan a "bridge" for helping get people working again. The U.S. and Michigan are currently in the throes of a hiring shortage that has left many businesses with too many open positions. That's made keeping businesses open difficult for some employers.

A combination of being needed at home, public health concerns, and generous unemployment benefits are potential reasons for the difficulty of hiring workers, despite so many being unemployed.

The Detroit Regional Chamber's vice president of government relations expressed optimism about a potential plan. 

Detroit's case for reparations

A grassroots movement calling on the city of Detroit to provide reparations for its citizens that are descendants of slavery is gaining steam. Attorney Todd Perkins said one would need 3,600 signatures to get it on the ballot. And how far are they? "We are close to 4,000."

A vote to authorize the reparations could come in November. "It's the biggest, blackest city yet you still see an economic divide," Perkins said. "A gap that is significant and it has not been quelled."

The ballot measure would change the city's charter that would allow people the right to pass legislation to earmark city funds for the purpose of redistribution. Perkins said the plan is to use revenue from the marijuana sales to pay for them. It's a game-changer, Perkins said. But "it's also a very symbolic thing - it's an acknowledgment. Everybody can acknowledge slavery is wrong and everybody can say I'm sorry, but words mean action."

The city's charter commission proposal calls for a task force on the issue and City Council President Pro-Tem Mary Sheffield is tweaking a resolution that will come to a vote on Tuesday. She plans to hold a press conference Friday to address the issue.

What's behind the used car spike?

Remember the microchip shortage impacting every facet of the supply chain? Well, now it's affecting local economies in peculiar ways - and that includes the used car market which is now booming. 

A global dip in supply for microchips means there's been a new car shortage growing. That's forced car buyers to look elsewhere for their next purchase, including dealerships with used cars.

"There's an influx of cash going into customers' hands, especially coming out of tax season, the stimulus, the tax money," said Eugene Hughley, who manages Suburban Buick GMC in Ferndale. "We've been pretty fortunate to be able to get our own inventory."

That's caused a surge of customers to reenter the market with too few new models available. Instead, they're buying used vehicles instead. It may not last forever though, Hughley said, who predicts the microchip shortage will return to normal by 2022.

Livonia street repairs lead to mass tree removal, sparking outcry

Prevent property damage or save the trees? The city of Livonia chose the first option during planned road construction that forced the chopping down of hundreds of trees. The city council president said the road work would put the trees in danger of falling and risk property damage and personal injury. 

But these trees, some of the 38,000 in the city, are "irreplaceable" said Brent Sabo, who has made it his mission to spread the word about the removal and his attempts to stop the decision. 

As the activist planned a protest for Monday, he said the tree in front of his house was cut down. "There was actually just a stump left of our tree," he said. "Our entire front lawn was littered with branches, there was a tree removal truck blocking our driveway."

The city has said it plants hundreds of trees a year. While the process for cutting down the ones already scheduled is a plan in motion, the council president Kathleen McIntyre did say she and other city officials were taking note of the protests and disagreements.

Mama Shu's son's murder remains unsolved

The Highland Park mom who made it her mission to end gun violence and create safe spaces for children still hasn't found closure or justice for the murder of her second son, who was shot five times earlier this year. She previously lost her 2-year-old in 2007 to a hit-and-run driver. 

"I've sacrificed blood twice in this city," said Shamayim 'Mama Shu' Harris, who was standing where her 23-year-old son Chinyelu Humphrey stood when he was killed - across from her home. 

"I looked over and I called Chin's name - I saw one gentleman run - and I was continuing to call his name, the other gentleman, it was like he was stuck," she said. "And I was able to see him." That was on Jan. 26.

Highland Park Mayor and former police chief,  Yopp was among the many showing support for Mama Shu. The woman who has turned her street into a sanctuary and educational space, says this is bigger than her son.

What else we're watching

  1. Coppercraft Distillery has announced the creation of a new gin in partnership with the Detroit Tigers. It's called Social 416 Gin and is made with the same blades of grass that can be found at Comerica Park.
  2. A Warren police officer is on leave after an investigation by the department revealed racist comments left on Facebook while he was off-duty.
  3. Following Whitmer's initial child care proposal announcement Monday, she'll be joined by several Republicans in front of the Capitol Building to officially unveil the bipartisan plan 
  4. Detroit police have relaunched their Community Closet, which provides food, clothing, and a conversation with cops to residents.
  5. Ford confirms that its Bronco production has officially kicked off at their Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

The near-perfect weather yesterday will get even closer to serenity with temperatures in the mid-70s and a whole lot of sunshine. Wednesday doesn't look so bad either.

House committee to investigate DOJ’s subpoenas for lawmakers, journalists

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced a formal investigation into the Department of Justice’s attempt to obtain records of lawmakers, journalists and other groups of people during the Trump administration in an effort to find the sources of leaked information to the public.

"Recent reports suggest that, during the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice used criminal investigations as a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies," Nadler said in a statement Monday.

Nadler said the issue raises serious constitutional concerns over the separation of powers, saying the investigation needs to uncover the full extent of the DOJ’s attempt and hold the responsible people accountable for their actions.