Due to the massive volume of unemployment claims filed as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Michigan has struggled to process claims on a timely basis. Technical challenges, lack of personnel to handle incoming phone calls, and new federal programs taxed their existing system and caused significant delays for people seeking unemployment benefits. Michigan has since quadrupled the number of personnel to process claims and handle phone calls, improving its ability to approve claims and pay out benefits. On July 6, the agency reported that they intend to clear out its backlog and decide on all unpaid claims filed before June 1 by July 20. This backlog represents 30,000 claims or approximately 1% of the total claims submitted.
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (DOLEO) oversees a variety of employment, housing, and economic development initiatives for the state. The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) is tasked with carrying out the unemployment insurance program, including processing claims and paying benefits. See below for details on the newly enhanced benefits available and how to file a claim.
Extra $300 Unemployment under Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program
FEMA has approved UIA’s application for Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) funding which will provide an additional $300 per week to Michiganders who are unemployed due to COVID-19. Claimants whose current weekly benefit amount (WBA) is at least $100 will receive the additional $300 per week retroactive to the week ending August 1, 2020. If you are already receiving unemployment benefits, you do not need to do anything additional to qualify for this payment at this time. Continue to certify bi-weekly as you normally would. Please do not contact Customer Service regarding your LWA payment. Check your MiWAM account for information on the status of your claim.
The new Lost Wages program however does cut the federal benefit ($600 FPUC) in half for Michiganders since the state cannot afford to boost the benefit by the additional $100 state contribution requested by Trump.
COVID 19 Enhanced Benefits in Michigan
Under the CARES act, there are three types of federal unemployment assistance available:
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): expands eligibility for individuals who are typically ineligible for Unemployment benefits, including independent contractors, self-employed, and “gig” workers. Recipients may receive up to 39 weeks of benefits under this program.
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): adds $600 per week in addition to the regular benefits that recipients of Unemployment Insurance are entitled to receive; the benefit is retroactive to the week ending April 4, 2020, and the program expired on July 25, 2020. This program has now expired; however, the UIA includes the following on their website;
“While the President has enacted a series of executive orders regarding unemployment benefits, this program has not yet been implemented. All states are currently awaiting guidance from the US Department of Labor regarding implementation. There is no further information at this time. Stay tuned for updates.” a series of executive orders regarding unemployment benefits, this program has not yet
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): provides an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment benefits to recipients of regular unemployment insurance.
The continued rise in the state’s unemployment rate caused Michigan to trigger 13 weeks of extended state benefits to those who have exhausted all other state and federal unemployment aid without returning to work permanently. The Extended Benefit (EB) program was triggered on April 26, 2020. The EB program runs through December 26 and applies to unemployed individuals who have exhausted regular unemployment and PEUC benefits, whichever is later.
Web and/or phone issues with accessing the Michigan Unemployment system
Lack of personnel, technical difficulties, and the high volume of claims filed due to the coronavirus have strained Michigan’s unemployment system. Due to the unprecedented number of claims, the UIA encourages filing online. To speed up the online process, it is recommended that claims be filed online during the non-peak hours between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM. The UIA acknowledges that load times may be slow on the website. They suggest giving pages time to load instead of clicking on links multiple times.
Existing Claimants: Claimants receiving unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus emergency must continue to certify every two weeks to receive the additional FPUC $600/week benefit. The extra $600/week compensation is retroactive to the week ending April 4 and ends on July 25. FPUC payments are automatically added to the weekly benefit payment. The UIA began issuing FPUC payments on April 10. Upon exhausting regular and PEUC benefits, eligible claimants must apply for the EB program. Existing claimants should track their current balance online to determine when to apply for EB.
Filing a Claim
You must create a new account through the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) here if you are filing a claim for the first time. Once you have created a username and password, log on to access online benefit services to complete your application.
Existing claimants can log in here to file their weekly claims. The days that you may file a claim online or over the phone are based on the first letter of your last name. You can then check the status of your claim here.
To receive unemployment benefits, you must certify for benefits every two weeks. Certifications can be done online or over the phone. The certification schedule is based on the first letter of your last name. If you fail to certify during the reporting week, you need to tell the UIA as to why you are late as they determine if you are eligible to receive benefits for those two weeks. If you do not have good cause for filing late, your benefits may be denied for that period.
If there is a problem with your claim that must be resolved before benefits can be paid, or if you have been denied benefits and are appealing the determination, you must still certify for and claim your benefits on time. If it is determined that you are eligible or if you win your appeal, you will be paid these benefits retroactively. However, if you have not claimed benefits and you win your appeal, you will not be paid for these weeks.
If you need help filing your claim or with online services, call toll-free (866) 500-0017 (Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Saturday 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
To apply online for Unemployment Insurance benefits (recommended), you must have:
- Worked in Michigan in the last 18 months
- Worked for a covered employer that paid in UI
You can also apply by phone.
If applying online, you will need the following information:
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license or state identification card
- Current address, phone number, and date of birth
- Employment history for the past 18 months including;
- Employers’ business names and addresses
- First and last date that you worked for each employer
- Reason you are no longer working for each employer
- Your most recent employer’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) account number or Federal ID number (which is found on your W-2 form)
- Alien Registration number and the date your work authorization expires if you are not a US citizen
I filed my unemployment claim several weeks ago. Will I receive back pay once my claim is approved?
The UIA continues to work through unemployment claims filed under the programs enacted by the Cares Act. Although the UIA has improved the turnaround time for its claim processing, there are still many outstanding claims that have not been processed. The FPUC $600 per week additional benefit expired during the week of July 25. If you have filed an unemployment claim before that date and are still awaiting a response regarding your eligibility for unemployment, you will receive retroactive payments for the back weeks of FPUC even if the decision is not made until after the July 25 expiration date. If you are not eligible for regular unemployment, you may be able to collect benefits under the PUA program. To determine if you are eligible to participate, you must complete a PUA application. Once your eligibility is determined, instructions will be sent to your MiWAM account as to how to file weekly claims. If you were eligible for PUA benefits for weeks that have already passed, you would be able to file weekly claims and recover back pay due to you.
Can I collect unemployment benefits if my employer reduced my hours to part-time?
According to the UIA, individuals who are partially unemployed due to a reduction of hours may be able to collect unemployment benefits. Recipients that work less than a combined 32 hours per week for all employers and earn less than $500 may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Why did I receive a stop payment indicator notice on my account?
The UIA has taken additional steps to prevent identity theft and fraud attempts on the state’s unemployment program. To protect claimants, additional information may be requested to verify identity and eligibility. Claimants who receive this notice on their account will be emailed instructions advising them how to submit the requested information to receive your benefits. If you have not received this notice, there is no need to act at this time.
“Stop Payment Indicator” Notice. If you received a “Stop Payment Indicator” notice on your account, detailed instructions have been emailed and mailed to you on how to submit additional identifying information in order to receive your benefits. There is no reason to take further action until you receive the instructions.
See additional FAQ from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity about employment benefits