Whitmer wants to use $300 bonus unemployment check as a back-to-work incentive for Michigan workers

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.

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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.