LANSING, Mich. — Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order expanding unemployment benefits on Monday, March 16, state officials said 108,710 Michigan workers have filed for benefits.
Thousands of workers across the state have been affected by the response to the coronavirus, as businesses have shut down or seen a dramatic drop in customers.
Jeff Donofrio, the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said expanding unemployment benefits to more Michiganders has provided emergency relief to many affected workers.
“Even though we’ve seen an unprecedented need for emergency financial assistance, Michigan’s unemployment system, and its hardworking staff, continue to provide critical help online and over the phone," said Donofrio.
The 108,710 of unemployment claims filed between Monday and Friday dwarf the normal weekly average of about 5,000 claims. This is a 2,100% increase.
States across the country are experiencing a similar rise in unemployment claims as businesses struggle to stay afloat during the pandemic. The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) benefits are funded by a $4.6 billion trust which has been built up over the past decade.
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.
According to state officials, Whitmer's executive order expanded benefits 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.
It also extends access to benefits for unemployed workers:
- Increased Weeks: Benefits will be increased from 20 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.
State officials are also looking for solutions for self-employed workers and independent contractors who do not usually have access to unemployment insurance.
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