Small Business Frustration Over Worker Recruitment Shared with State House Committee

If your business is still searching for help, you can at least gain a small measure of comfort that it’s not just you.

The steady drumbeat of frustration and consternation among small business enterprises trying desperately to find workers to staff their businesses continued in Lansing this week.

Just last week we reported on a broad-based panel of local business owners concerned about the ability to hire key workers going into the busy tourist season side by side with ongoing frustrations over skilled trades gaps in the manufacturing sector.

Yesterday, small business owner Tom Little, owner of Service Master of Kalamazoo, shared his frustrations in trying to hire workers with the House Government Operations Committee in Lansing. The Committee was holding a hearing on the requirement to search for work when an out of work claimant is collecting unemployment benefits.

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Little argues, “There needs to be some clarity on the requirement to seek work if someone is claiming unemployment benefits,” and adds, “Right now, it is confusing for employers and claimants as to what is the status quo of the requirement.”

The frustration of small business in finding workers was echoed by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), as well, with NFIB Michigan State Director Charlie Owens telling the committee, “As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, 42-percent of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, a record high reading.” Owens adds, “Owners continue to have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill jobs as they compete with increased unemployment benefits and the pandemic keeping workers out of the labor force.”

Little told the Committee that it is challenging enough to find workers when they are being incentivized by numerous government programs to stay home and it doesn’t help when no one seems to know whether they are required to look for work as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

Confusion over the work requirement is the result of numerous changes over the course of the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, Governor Whitmer waived the requirement to seek work as a condition of claiming unemployment benefits in her Executive Orders issued under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. However, in October of 2020 the Supreme Court ruled those orders were unconstitutional.

Shortly afterward, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation that reinstated some of the Unemployment Insurance orders until the end of 2020, however, the language did not include the work search waiver. The Unemployment Agency administrative rules allow the agency to waive the requirement in certain circumstances. To add to the confusion, the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and other federal unemployment programs administered by the agency included a requirement that states consider relaxing the “actively seeking work” requirement for those who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits if their ability to do so is affected by COVID-19.