MI Governor Whitmer Announces Expansion of Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by COVID-19

Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has announced new programs to expand unemployment benefits for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to an agreement signed by Governor Whitmer with the U.S. Department of Labor under the CARES Act, new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs are being implemented to expand unemployment benefits in Michigan.

Expansion of Unemployment Benefits

First, the agreement will increase weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 per week for up to four months. Additionally, the agreement extends benefit payments from twenty-six (26) weeks to thirty-nine (39) weeks. This increase in benefits is available to workers already in the unemployment system and eligible employees seeking to apply for unemployment benefits. There are no additional steps for workers to take in order to receive the additional $600/week, whether they are currently enrolled in the unemployment system or in the process of applying.

Second, the agreement will extend unemployment benefits to workers that do not already qualify for Michigan unemployment benefits. The following workers will be eligible for unemployment benefits due to the expansion, if their loss of work was due to the COVID-19 pandemic: self-employed workers, 1099-independent contractors, gig workers and low-wage workers. These workers will receive $600 per week for up to four (4) months on top of state unemployment benefits. See the section below for guidance on applying for benefits.

Also, note that the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will be issuing additional guidance regarding these new unemployment programs in the coming days as it implements the new programs. Workers should periodically check the UIA website for updates.

Guidance for Workers Seeking to File for Unemployment Benefits.

The UIA encourages workers seeking unemployment benefits to apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA during off-peak times between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. pursuant to the following schedule:

  • Workers with last names starting with A-L: Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays
  • Workers with last names starting with M-Z: Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays
  • All workers: Saturdays

Please note that the UIA website currently has a notice posted to all self-employed workers, gig workers, 1099-independent contractors and low-wage workers to not apply at this time for unemployment benefits. Rather, the UIA intends to have applications open for such workers in the next few days. Any such workers should periodically check the UIA website for updates on when the application will open.

Currently, workers have a 28-day window from the date of their work stoppage to apply for unemployment benefits. Additionally, claims for unemployment will be back-dated to reflect the date in which the worker was laid-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For any questions regarding the expansion of unemployment benefits, please contact Abby Pendleton, Esq. at (248) 996-8510 or by email at apendleton@thehlp.com.

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