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Michigan Department of Human Services, Unemployment Agency officials discuss potential benefit reductions to thousands

Contact: Edward Woods III, Office of Communications Director, (517) 373-7394

June 29, 2010

With 87,000 people estimated to lose unemployment benefits by July 3 and tens of thousands more in the coming months, it is imperative that the Legislature approve a budget that keeps the state's safety net intact, Michigan Department of Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed said today.

"The U.S. Senate's failure to extend unemployment benefits has threatened the safety net for Michigan's vulnerable children, adults and families," Ahmed said. "That's why Michigan legislators must act to pass a budget that funds critical support for the state's vulnerable children, adults and families."

Congress has also failed to act on critical funding that Michigan uses to pay for Medicaid, foster care maintenance and adoption subsidies, creating a projected $500 million budget gap in fiscal year 2011 for Michigan. These federal matching funds are set to expire Dec. 31, 2010.

"As we continue to set record highs every month for Medicaid and food assistance, and caseworkers having an average of 700 cases each, this news from Washington challenges our ability to serve Michigan's vulnerable citizens," Ahmed added. "As a result of the economic downturn and high unemployment, Medicaid is vital in providing temporary medical assistance for so many."

About 408,000 unemployed Michigan workers currently receive unemployment benefits, said Stephen Geskey, director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. The agency projects that without a federal extension more than 341,000 people could lose extended benefits by year end.

"On average, $1 in unemployment benefits increases near-term gross domestic product by an average of $2.15," Geskey said. "During a recessionary time, there's a significant return on investment from unemployment insurance dollars on the state's economy."

Ahmed commended DHS employees who despite the budget challenges stand ready to hold together the frayed safety net for Michigan's vulnerable citizens who are losing their unemployment benefit payments.

Anyone who receives unemployment benefit payments and has not applied for food assistance or emergency energy assistance may do so by visiting www.michigan.gov/mibridges. A Medicaid application can be downloaded, filled out and mailed to a local DHS office. To apply for cash assistance, a visit to a local office is required.

Workers who currently receive food assistance and who lose unemployment benefits may qualify for additional food assistance automatically for the following month because of the income change.

Additional resources are also available on the Helping Hand portal at www.michigan.gov/helpinghand or by calling 2-1-1. Areas not served by 2-1-1 may call 800-552-1183.

Unemployed workers who are now collecting unemployment benefits can find out how many weeks they have remaining on their claim by calling MARVIN at 866-638-3993 and selecting option 2. Those with online web accounts with the UIA can check their "Benefit Payment History" for information about their remaining weeks of benefits.

Additional information is on the UIA website www.michigan.gov/uia. In addition, the agency has also established a toll-free telephone number (866-MI-HELPS) for people to call for pre-recorded information about the federal extension of unemployment benefits.

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Editor's Note: Unedited, high-resolution video from the event will be available for download late afternoon. You will need to register to access that service, here:https://sso.state.mi.us/.

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