UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK
As of April 13, 2020, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has begun accepting applications for the broadest category of potential recipients under federal law reforms related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the various federal reforms, most Michigan workers who face job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic should be eligible to receive unemployment benefits including a $600 per week federal supplement on top of basic benefits regularly provided by the state system. Workers defined as “self-employed” or otherwise defined as independent contractors will be newly able to claim unemployment benefits as a result of the federal disaster relief package known as the CARES Act. And workers who have previously run out of benefit weeks will be able to re-qualify for additional benefits weeks up to 39 weeks of total benefits.
Am I Eligible for Pandemic Assistance or Other Unemployment Benefits?
Operating under the current state of emergency and the Michigan Governor’s Executive Orders, unemployment benefits are available to individuals “considered to have left work involuntarily for medical reasons” if that individual leaves work for any of the following reasons:
- The individual is under self-isolation or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immuno-compromised.
- The individual has displayed at least one of the principal symptoms of COVID-19, which are a fever, atypical cough, and atypical shortness of breath.
- The individual has had contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Contact for the purposes of healthcare exposures is defined as follows: a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time, without appropriate personal protective equipment consistent with Department of Health and Human Services recommendations; or b) having unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions or excretions of the patient (e.g., being coughed on, touching used tissues with a bare hand).
- The individual is required to care for someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
- The individual has a family care responsibility as a result of a government directive.
Benefits and eligibility criteria under the Governor’s Order are applied retroactively to March 16, 2020 under the Governor’s order.
Executive Order No. 2020-76 Providing Temporary Expansion of Unemployment Eligibility and Cost Sharing, provides text and guidance, along with an extension under Executive Order 2020-100.
Will I Still Qualify for Unemployment Benefits if I Can’t Return to Work Yet?
A growing number of workers are being called back to work after COVID-19 related layoffs. What if your workplace is not complying with COVID-19 workplace safety guidance? What if your own medical condition or caregiver responsibilities make you unable to return to the workplace? The Unemployment Agency has issued new guidance in the form of Q & A related to return-to-work demands and your right to continued benefits.
[Michigan workers concerned with workplace safety, medical leave or accommodations, or other COVID-19 related issues can access additional resources here.]
How to File for Unemployment Benefits
The Unemployment Insurance Agency has a series of how-to videos to help navigate the unemployment system and assist you with filing a claim. View the full playlist of videos for employees here.
For employers managing workplace changes, the Michigan Unemployment Agency is encouraging business to use of the workshare program (allowing employees with reduced hours to qualify for supplemental benefits) and other temporary furloughs as an alternative to permanent layoffs.
For more technical details on implementation of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and related programs, the Department of Labor has Issued guidance to the States in the form of UI Program Letters.
Non-Monetary Determination Issues
Many unemployment claimants have had claims held up under for so-called “non-monetary determination pending” flags. This typically occurs when the claimant has voluntary left previous jobs in the base period even though they were fired or laid off from their most recent job. As of May 6, 2020, Executive Order 2020-76 has relaxed this standard so that delayed benefits can be released.