By Scott Bolthouse | The Huron Hub
Published April 23, 2020
Nearly 1.2 million Michigan residents have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.
The U.S. Department of Labor said today that 1,178,021 Michiganders have filed for unemployment since March 15, with 134,119 workers filing claims last week alone.
The Michigan Unemployment Agency says it has already provided $1.37 billion in benefits to an estimated 820,000 workers in Michigan.
“We are committed to providing this emergency financial assistance to Michigan workers as quickly as possible, but we know we still have a lot of work left to do to get every dollar in benefits to the working families that need it most,” said Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “We’re working around the clock to add capacity to the system so that we can continue to process all claims during this historic demand for benefits.”
The vast majority of workers who have yet to receive benefits will receive payments shortly after they complete the federal requirement to certify their claim two weeks after filing.
Michigan is among the first states in the nation to begin sending the additional $600 federal payments under the CARES act and make the unemployment application available to self-employed workers and independent contractors.
Unemployment agency adds capacity
The UIA says it has extended its call center hours and added hundreds of staff.
More than 600 UIA employees are now dedicated to answering questions over the phone and through the website.
The agency has also built in new tools to its online system to connect to an online resource of more than 100 staff to resolve technical issues like locked accounts.
The agency says an equivalent of 300 full-time staff will also be added to the agency soon.
Unemployment demand is historical
In the weeks preceding the pandemic, UIA says it received around 5,000 new weekly unemployment claims.
During the recession in 2009, UIA says the weekly high was around 77,000.
Unemployment claims during COVID-19:
Week-Ending April 18: 134,119
Week-Ending April 11: 222,207
Week-Ending April 4: 388,554
Week-Ending March 28: 304,335
Week-Ending March 21: 128,806
Five Week Total: 1,178,021
The fastest way to file and certify a claim is online at Michigan.gov/UIA where it takes around 25 minutes and is available 24/7.
Residents are asked to use the site during off-peak hours between 8 p.m. – 8 .a.m.
For anyone having difficulty with their account, the UIA Call Center, 1-866-500-0017, is available 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Customers in the call center and online chat queues before closing time will have their calls or chats resolved that day, according to UIA.