State senator suggests laying off non-essential state employees amid COVID-19 budget crisis

By Scott McClallen | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Monday called for laying off non-essential state employees because of state budget concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates the impact on the 2020 state budget to be between $1 billion and $3 billion.

They estimate another $1 billion to $4 billion impact on next year’s budget.

“We are facing a serious financial challenge, and we need to consider all options to adjust our spending — such as cuts to popular programs and laying off non-essential state employees, including those in the Legislature,” the Midland Republican said in a statement.

“The state is doing everything it can to address the global COVID-19 pandemic, but we also must soon make the hard decisions to address its tremendous impact to our economy and state budget. The longer we wait to act, the deeper the cuts will need to be.”

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency last week announced it hired hundreds of additional workers to handle increased claims filed after government-mandated business closures.

Still, the site crashed Monday morning as federal unemployment applications opened to self-employed workers, gig workers, and 1099-independent contractors.

Over 1 million people have already filed for unemployment benefits, Jeff Donofrio, director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said this afternoon.

He said that’s over a quarter of Michigan’s workforce.

Whitmer didn’t directly answer a question if she agreed with Stamas’ suggestion to lay off non-essential state workers.

“We’re going to have to work together and make some tough decisions,” Whitmer said in a Monday press conference.

Whitmer last month froze hiring “non-essential” state government employees and discretionary state spending.

The legislature must send the governor the fiscal year 2021 budget by July 1.