Governor expands unemployment benefits eligibility

The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday issued an executive order extending and expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 crisis.  

The order expands Michigan's workshare program and extends unemployment benefits to workers "who voluntarily left a job after accepting new employment but were unable to start their new position due to the pandemic," representatives said in a statement.

The executive order is the third expansion of unemployment benefits since coronavirus cases reached Michigan last month, according to the release. 

It also:

•Allows anyone with an active unemployment claim to receive up to 26 weeks of benefits  

•Suspends the requirement for a resident seeking unemployment to request a registration and work search waiver from their employer  

•Allows Unemployment Insurance Agency retirees to keep their retirement benefits if they return to work to process unemployment claims or serve on the Occupational Health and Safety Commission  

•Expands cost-sharing with employers to reduce layoffs  

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.

“No one should have to worry about how to make ends meet during this unprecedented public health crisis” Whitmer said. “By extending eligibility for unemployment benefits, we can help give hard-working Michiganders some financial peace of mind as we continue flattening the COVID-19 curve across Michigan.”  

As of Wednesday, the state unemployment agency had issued $825 million to more than 800,000 claimants who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis, the governor said. 

The online unemployment system crashed April 13, the same day self-employed workers and independent contractors in Michigan affected by the COVID-19 pandemic could start applying for unemployment assistance.

Last week, state officials said they had added more computer servers and staffers to answer phones to handle record-setting numbers of unemployment claims.

Meanwhile, temporary layoff notices were sent to more than 2,900 of the state's 48,295 employees to save the state roughly $5 million, the governor's office said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel issued temporary layoff notices Tuesday to more than 100 employees. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office said it was temporarily laying off more than 900 employees, or 60% of its workforce, starting Sunday.