HAVLICEK: Whitmer veto jeopardizes benefits, harms businesses

On Dec. 21, the Michigan Legislature passed a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill, which provided help for small businesses, support for frontline workers and extended unemployment benefits for Michiganders struggling without work.

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Whitmer line-item vetoed $359 million of the bill’s $465 million in relief funding. That’s more than 75 percent of what lawmakers had approved.

We found these vetoes unacceptable for multiple reasons, but one in particular was an outright slap-in-the-face to every business and individual who has struggled as a direct result of her administration’s restrictions. Here’s why.

According to a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, Michigan had the highest percentage (32.04 percent) of state mandated small business closures in the country in 2020. This also resulted in one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, draining our state’s employer-supported Unemployment Trust Fund by almost $4 billion since the start of the pandemic.

With the latest shutdown still ongoing, the state had to once again extend expanded unemployment benefits through the end of March. To avoid triggering a tax increase on small businesses, the legislature appropriated $220 million into the UTF to cover the costs of the extension. Their rationale was simple: the government forced these layoffs for the ‘public good’ so the government should pay for it.

Yet, prominent among the governor’s vetoes was the elimination of that $220 million. As a result, small employers all over the state will see significant tax hikes in the coming years as funds in the state’s UTF continue to diminish at an unprecedented rate.

To add further insult to injury, our governor called this appropriation a “giveaway of taxpayer money” to employers. In reality, this funding would have gone directly into the pockets of workers who found themselves unemployed as a result of the Governor’s open-ended shutdowns. I say would have because her action has now jeopardized the extended unemployment assistance these out-of-work individuals desperately need.

Enough is enough. It is unacceptable to create policies that force individuals out of their jobs and then veto funds that would help them. The Legislature should put another bill on her desk restoring the $220 million, and the governor should sign it. This would help struggling unemployed workers receive extra benefits at no cost to struggling employers – a win-win.

The true win, however, would be realizing government will never have the capacity to fix the financial damage done to businesses or the unemployed over the past year. So instead of creating government programs and appropriating government funds to fix the problem we are in, we should fix the government policy that created it.

The surge in cases we saw last Fall will likely not be the last, but our strategy for dealing with the next one must change. We must allow businesses to stay open in accordance with CDC guidelines. We must give them a fighting chance to recover or they never will.

In 2020, Michigan was number one in state mandated business closures.

Michigan cannot afford to be number one again.

Berrien County

Michigan expanding access to safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 591,753 cases, 15,563 deaths

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: Feb. 24-28

Dowagiac

Dowagiac man arrested on meth charges

Business

Niles restaurants see regulars return as restrictions relax

Berrien County

United Way invites community to sponsor children to receive free books

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 590,217 cases, 15,558 deaths

Berrien County

Niles Township Parks Board seeks public input at Wednesday hearing

Buchanan

Niles Scream Park seeks new nonprofit organizations

Berrien County

Updated MDHHS orders expand restaurant capacity, increase capacity limits, allow for expanded visitation at residential care facilities

News

Niles Township approves state-outlined poverty guidelines, purchases tractor attachment for trails, considers firefighter applicants

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD narrows superintendent search to two candidates

Dowagiac

Dowagiac art students complete Lego murals

News

Former surgeon given 10 to 40 years for criminal sexual conduct

Breaking News

UPDATE: Two teenagers injured in shooting at Niles hotel

Dowagiac

SMC unveils scholarship guarantee

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 589,150 cases, 15,534 deaths

Business

Applications now available for Dowagiac’s Summer in the City Festival

Breaking News

Two shot, wounded at Niles hotel

Berrien County

Michigan Works! announces healthcare hiring events

News

Niles Police Log: Feb. 18-25

Edwardsburg

Ontwa Township Edwardsburg Police Log: Feb. 15-22

Dowagiac

SMC graduate experiences Super Bowl

Dowagiac

Dowagiac women aim to create change through local government