The new federal CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week for up to four months to workers who receive state unemployment benefits, and Michigan was one of the first states to begin sending these increased benefits to unemployed workers. Equally significant, the CARES Act also expanded the availability of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to individuals who may not have previously qualified for unemployment benefits. Specifically, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, “gig” workers, and low-wage workers affected by COVID-19 can now obtain unemployment compensation in Michigan. Even if you are only eligible for the minimum amount of state unemployment benefits, you will receive the full $600 per week under the PUA program.
Unfortunately, these newly eligible workers have so far been unable to apply for benefits in Michigan because the state’s unemployment system wasn’t prepared to manage their claims.
Since March 15th, more than 800,000 Michigan workers filed for unemployment benefits, according to the U.S Department of Labor. That is a staggering 5,000 percent increase in claims over a three-week period. Unsurprisingly, this unprecedented and sudden explosion of applications has jammed the unemployment computer and phone systems at Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). In an effort to increase the ability of the system to process the flood of applications, UIA officials instituted an online schedule for filing claims.
You Can File Your Claim NOW, But Only on Designated Days
Beginning Monday, April 13th, 2020, Michigan’s self-employed workers, gig workers, 1099-independent contractors, and low-wage workers affected by COVID-19 can apply for PUA benefits online. Filing online at Michigan.gov/UIA is the fastest and easiest way to access these benefits.
To receive the maximum amount available through the program, be prepared to provide proof of income, like W-2s, 1099 tax forms, or pay stubs when you apply. You also need to follow the UIA’s daily filing schedule based on your last name:
- Last names beginning with letters A-L: file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z: file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
- Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
Workers are encouraged to use off-peak times 8 p.m. – 8 a.m. The UIA recently announced new resources to help workers resolve online technical issues with their accounts. Those who file claims this week may begin to receive federal benefits as early as April 20th.
The UIA will be accepting claims and benefit applications back-dated to reflect the date on which the claimant was laid-off due to COVID-19, beyond the previously established 28-day period ($600 federal payment is only retroactive back to March 28th).
What Newly Eligible Workers Should Do
If you are a self-employed individual, gig worker, 1099-independent contractor, or low-wage worker whose previous application for unemployment benefits was denied, you should log in to your MiWAM account to complete the next steps for obtaining PUA federal benefits. All Michigan workers will receive an email outlining these next steps. You should not file a new claim, however, as that may delay the time it takes to get the PUA benefits.
All Eligible Workers Will Receive Benefits
The UIA has assured every eligible worker in Michigan who applies for unemployment benefits that they will receive them. Note that individuals on paid sick leave or other paid leave – and those who have the ability to telework with pay – are not eligible for PUA.
We Are Available to Help During the Coronavirus Emergency
If you have questions about employment issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” shelter-in-place restrictions, the employment law attorneys at Kreis Enderle are here to counsel you regarding your rights. We are working remotely during the crisis and can conference with you by telephone or video.