Updates on Unemployment System and Implementation of Federal CARES Act

As of Tuesday, April 14th Director Donofrio Gives updates on the unemployment system and implementation of the Federal CARES Act.

“I want to start off by really talking about some of the things that the department of labor and economic opportunity are doing on this time of crises, specifically talking about unemployment insurance.

We really have three focuses. First, is to make sure we drive down the curve of spreading COVID-19 by helping the governor implement the Stay Home, Stay Safe act. The executive order she put in place extended which is really designed to lessen the pain that we experience economically and of course that we experience in this health crisis. Second is to make sure that we get emergency benefits to individuals and to businesses through this crisis period of time to help them be able to also recover and rebuild as we come out of the crisis. The third is to make sure that we are planning for the restart and recovery of our economy.

We’ll talk many more about those pieces as time goes on, but really, specifically, I want to make sure we talk about unemployment insurance today, given the importance of those emergency benefits to individuals. We are committed to making sure that every Michigander who is eligible for unemployment benefits receives them. We’ve seen historic increases in the need and of course in the filing of unemployment insurance as well because of COVID-19.

As I mentioned yesterday, over a million people in the state of Michigan, almost over a quarter of our workforce, have filed for unemployment benefits so far. We are not alone in seeing these large increases, in fact, California and Pennsylvania are the only states that are higher than us, but Michigan is higher than all great lakes states, higher than the state of New York which has been majorly hit by COVID-19.  We’ve greatly expanded our web servers, we’ve added 100s of staff, but our state systems and state systems across the county for unemployment insurance, have struggled to cope with these historic numbers. But the benefits that they provide are crucial for families to put food on the table, to pay their bills, to purchase prescription drugs and to have dollars to be able to re-enter the economy when businesses start reopening. Most of those eligible have been able to file, and so far, the state of Michigan has paid out 350 million dollars to more than 600,000 Michiganders. That number is only going to grow as we move forward and as the days and weeks tick away.

What keeps us working around the clock is the commitment that we won’t rest until everyone is helped. Claims are backdated to when a worker was laid off because of COVID-19. Regardless of how much time has passed, the day you file your claim will not impact the benefits you receive. You can file online at Michigan.gov/uia. We are asking individuals to file by the last name.

If your last name begins with A-L, you can file Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. If your last name begins with M-Z, you can file Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. For anyone who misses their day, they can file on Saturday. We’re also asking that if you can, consider filing during off-peak hours – after 8 pm. The website will allow individuals to file anytime – open 24 hours a day. If you’ve filed and made your claim, we ask that you don’t log back into the system. To make it easier for fellow Michiganders to access their files and make claims as quickly as possible.

For those who need additional help, we’ve added hundreds of additional call center staff and have hundreds more on the way/ We’ve expanded our call center days and hours of operations.

Thanks to the Federal Cares Act, most who have been denied unemployment are likely for benefits now. These include small business owners and those not traditionally covered by benefits, self-employed worker, the 1099 worker, the gig economy worker, independent contractors, and low wage workers. If you are unable to work during COVID-19, and you fit into one of these categories, you can apply for the pandemic unemployment insurance benefits starting this week at Michigan.gov/uia.

Governor Whitmer extended benefits to sick workers, without paid time off, those who are unexpectedly caring for loved ones without any paid time off (a child or family member who is sick). Individuals that do not qualify for the benefits include those that do have paid time off, or sick time with paid leave and are taking that. Individuals that can telework with pay at an equivalent rate, individuals who work without cause to obtain unemployment insurance benefits.

We also know that we’ve made an increase in benefits that will automatically be applied to individuals accounts. So the duration of benefits now, go from 20 weeks to 39 weeks and as of last Wednesday, we were one of the first and few states to begin sending out the additional $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits on top of the up to $362 provided by the state of Michigan. These payments are dispersed with regular benefits and lasts until the end of July.”

For more information, please visit https://youtu.be/6dLPuTEfbs0.