Whitmer signs bills to extend unemployment to 26 weeks

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills to lengthen state unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, from 20 weeks, through the end of the year.

The laws enacted Tuesday largely codify changes the Democratic governor had ordered early in the coronavirus pandemic under her emergency authority. The Michigan Supreme Court recently struck down a law that was the underpinning of various orders, making the unemployment and other orders invalid.

Whitmer urged the Republican-led Legislature to next make the 26 weeks of benefits permanent, which is the case in 40 other states.

Whitmer last spring extended the maximum length of state payments, expanded eligibility and added flexibility in the “work share” program that provides partial benefits when businesses cut workers’ hours rather than lay them off. The jobless can receive additional payments from the federal government once they exhaust their state benefits.

Lawmakers did not continue a Whitmer-ordered provision that she said had been intended to speed up claims processing by allowing the Unemployment Insurance Agency to review only a claimant’s most recent employer separation.