LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) said they are working "hard and fast to handle the influx of applications" for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Individuals in need of help are encouraged to apply online, because due to the tremendous call volume the UIA has seen, certain callers may be receiving a busy tone. If workers do not have access to a computer or smart phone, they can still call to apply for benefits at 866-500-0017.
“While an unprecedented number of calls and clicks has challenged the system, particularly during peak hours, we want to assure Michiganders that the system is providing emergency financial relief,” said UIA Director Steve Gray in a statement on Wednesday. "Our website may be operating a little slower, and phone queues are full resulting in busy signals for some callers, so the UIA is urging patience and recommending that workers go first to the online system."
In addition, applying online in off-peak hours will expedite the process. The 24-hour website operates faster when there are fewer people on the site at any given time. Last week, the UIA saw a 2,100% increase in the number of unemployment claims filed.
The UIA also urges Michiganders using the website to expect longer load times. It may take several minutes for a page to load. Users are asked to be patient and not click more than once to reload a page.
The UIA said off-peak hours are between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
“Though it is best to file your claim as efficiently as possible, and we understand residents are eager to receive their checks quickly, the UIA wants to remind Michiganders that the eligibility window to apply has been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage,” added Gray.
Applicants with questions can also access information on the website, including frequently asked questions about the process and current challenges due to COVID-19. Checking the website for answers may help alleviate pressure on the phone line, the UIA said in a press release Wednesday.
Executive orders to provide assistance
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on March 16 to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits. It will last until Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m.
Under the governor’s order, unemployment benefits would be extended to:
- Sick Workers: Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
- Workers Caring for Loved Ones: Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
- First responders: Individuals working in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19 and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
The governor’s order also extends access to benefits for unemployed workers:
- Increased Weeks: Benefits will be increased from 20 to up to 26 weeks.
- Longer Application Time: The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days.
- Fewer Requirements: The in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.
Michigan workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic can visit michigan.gov/UIA or call 866-500-0017 to apply for benefits.
The governor signed an additional order into place on March 25 that expands unemployment eligibility and cost-sharing.
- The order does the following things:
- Suspends the requirement for an individual seeking unemployment to request a registration and work search waiver from their employer;
- Allows anyone with an active unemployment claim to receive up to a six-week benefit extension.
- Expands cost-sharing with employers. Any benefit paid to a claimant that is laid off or placed on a leave of absence will not be charged to the employer’s accounts, but instead will be pooled and assumed by the Nonchargeable Benefits Component of employer accounts. Employers who unlawfully misclassify their workers and have underpaid their unemployment tax do not get the benefit of this enhanced cost-sharing.
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