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Deal allows jobless benefits for Michigan's self-employed

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an agreement with the federal government that officially boosts unemployment benefits and extends them to independent contractors who can no longer work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the $2 trillion relief package approved by the U.S. Congress last week, Michigan has agreed with the U.S. Department of Labor to programs that grant benefits to workers who don't already qualify for unemployment, the governor's office said Monday.

"This increase and expansion of unemployment benefits will provide a measure of security for Michigan working families who lost their income due to the pandemic," Whitmer said in a press release.

"We are committed to ensuring emergency financial relief for unemployed residents who continue to stay home and stay safe."

A graphic from Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency explains a new process through which the state is asking people to file claims on different days of the week based on their last names. The process is meant to help deal with the high demand for unemployment benefits.

Under the legislation, individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors and low-wage workers can receive benefits.

Also, under the legislation and the state's agreement, weekly benefits for unemployed workers will increase $600 a week for up to four months.

In addition, the legislation extended unemployment benefits 13 weeks for workers covered by traditional unemployment insurance.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency will provide additional guidance regarding eligibility and application details in the coming days, the governor's office said. But the increased unemployment benefits apply to workers already in the unemployment system. Worker's don't have to re-apply.

As the coronavirus has forced business closures and layoffs, a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the week of March 15-21. Those filings included more than 129,000 people in Michigan.

So many filings have come in that the state is asking individuals making claims to file on different days of the week based on the first letter of their last names.

When it comes to online filings through www.michigan.gov/UIA, the Unemployment Insurance Agency said it wants people with last names beginning with letters from A-L to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It wants people with last names beginning with letters M-Z to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window, according to a press release.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Detroit News Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.