COVID-19 and Unemployment Compensation Benefits
- How has the pandemic affected Michigan unemployment benefits?
- How do the Governor’s executive orders expand who is eligible for unemployment?
- If I’m on unemployment, do I need to be looking for a job right now?
- How has the pandemic affected federal unemployment benefits?
- Who is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
- How do I apply for PUA?
- Will my unemployment benefits be taxed?
- Will my unemployment benefits affect my eligibility for Medicaid or other programs?
- I’m afraid to go to work because I might get coronavirus. Will refusing to go negatively affect my unemployment benefits?
- I’m not sure if I qualify for unemployment. Should I apply?
- How do I apply for unemployment?
- How does my immigration status impact filing for unemployment and vice-versa?
- If I am denied unemployment, how can I protest the decision?
- My protest was denied. Now what?
- Someone on Facebook said I should . . .
- When do my emergency benefits end?
How has the pandemic affected Michigan unemployment benefits? – Back to Top
Executive Orders from Governor Whitmer have introduced these changes:
- The maximum duration of benefits is now 26 weeks.
- You are no longer required to be actively looking for work in order to receive benefits (the work search requirement of MES Act 28(1)(a) has been suspended).
- If you leave work for certain COVID-related reasons (see below), you are still be considered eligible under the voluntary quit provisions (though you may be ineligible for other reasons). If you’re on a leave of absence due to COVID, you are eligible under MES Act 48(3), unless you were already on paid sick or disability leave.
- You have more time to file an application for unemployment benefits.
How do the Governor’s executive orders expand who is eligible for unemployment? – Back to Top
The Governor’s executive orders allow certain people to receive unemployment benefits, including:
- People who can’t work because of family care responsibilities. For example, those who don’t have childcare due to school and daycare closures, and those who are taking care of sick loved ones.
- People who don’t have access to paid leave and are sick, quarantined, or can’t work because their immune system is compromised (weakened).
- First responders who become sick or are quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19.
If I’m on unemployment, do I need to be looking for a job right now? – Back to Top
No. Michigan law normally requires that those receiving unemployment compensation are actively searching for work. In light of the pandemic, however, this “work search” requirement has been suspended.
If you are on the federal PEUC-extended unemployment, there is technically a work search requirement, but the state will be flexible in applying it. For example, being in quarantine is a perfectly acceptable response that would satisfy the work search requirement.
In either case, continue to certify and answer questions honestly and thoroughly.
How has the pandemic affected federal unemployment benefits? – Back to Top
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act.
First, the Act created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or “PUA.” PUA provides comparable state benefits to people who would not normally qualify for unemployment. If you worked in 2019-2020 but did not qualify for UI, you might qualify for PUA. People with limited earnings or work history may qualify. Independent contractors, gig workers, and freelancers are especially likely to qualify.
PUA provides benefits based on a claimant’s recent earnings, from a minimum of one-half the state average weekly UI benefit. PUA benefits run up to 39 weeks and may be paid for the weeks ending January 27th through December 31st of 2020.
Second, the Act provides Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). PEUC acts to extend the state UI benefits period by up to 13 weeks. If you were close to exhausting your state benefits, they might have been extended by PEUC.
The federal PEUC extension and the Governor’s Executive Order extension are cumulative. That means, claimants may be eligible for a total of up to 39 weeks (26 + 13) of benefits.
Third, the Act provided Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC). PUC was a flat $600 per week benefit to everyone receiving unemployment benefits. PUC was given from the week ending April 4 through the week ending July 25, 2020.
Who is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)? – Back to Top
Individuals are eligible for PUA if they do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits (as described above) and cannot work because they:
- Are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking diagnosis;
- Have a member of the household who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Are providing care for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Are the primary caregiver for a child whose school or care facility is closed, due to COVID-19;
- Are unable to reach their place of employment due to an imposed quarantine, or because a medical provider advised them to self-quarantine, due to COVID-19;
- Were scheduled to start new employment and cannot reach the workplace as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Became the major breadwinner because the head of household died from COVID-19;
- Quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Had their place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
- Meet any additional criteria specified by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Individuals are not eligible for PUA if they can telework or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits (regardless of meeting a category listed above). If you qualify for state UI, you do not qualify for PUA.
People that are eligible for PUA will receive the state benefit of up to $362 per week. The benefit amount will be based on amount of wages earned during 2019 and 2020. To claim PUA you should collect and submit evidence of your previous wages from 2019 and 2020, to maximize the benefits you can receive.
If you receive a notice that you are not eligible for state benefits, log in to your MiWAM account, click on the link that says, “File a PUA Application,” and answer a few questions before submitting your application.
How do I apply for PUA? – Back to Top
If you were already denied state benefits, you can log in to your MiWAM account at Michigan.gov/UIA to complete the next steps for federal benefits. Look under the Account Alerts tab for a link to “File a PUA Application.”
Once you complete your PUA application, you should receive a confirmation number. After your application is processed, you should get a claim number and additional instructions from the Agency.
Be sure to answer questions honestly and thoroughly.
Will my unemployment benefits be taxed? – Back to Top
Yes. All unemployment compensation, including the extra $600 per week, is taxable like regular income.
Will my unemployment benefits affect my eligibility for Medicaid or other programs? – Back to Top
It depends. The state benefit (up to $362) will be counted as income for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility, but the extra $600 federal benefit will not. Both the regular state benefit and the extra $600 will be counted in determining eligibility for SNAP (food stamps).
I’m afraid to go to work because I might get coronavirus. Will refusing to go negatively affect my unemployment benefits? – Back to Top
Possibly. There are circumstances in which you can qualify for unemployment if you are concerned that going to work could cause you to get coronavirus.
People who leave work during the state of emergency for the following reasons will be considered to be involuntarily unemployed under the Governor’s executive order:
- They are immune-compromised and at heightened risk of contracting the virus
- They showed symptoms of the virus
- They came into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus
- They are the caretaker for someone who has been diagnosed with the virus
- As a result of government-mandated closures, they need to stay at home to take care of someone in their family (e.g. taking care of a child because schools are closed)
- They are on a leave of absence due to the virus (pre-existing sick leave or disability leave or other paid leave does not count)
If you feel that you must quit to protect your health, you may risk losing your unemployment status. Employees who quit can remain eligible if they prove that they left for a compelling work-related reason. If it gets to this stage you may want to find legal help, and should collect and preserve as much evidence as you can to support your case. If your employer is following state and federal workplace protocol, then your case will be a lot weaker.
Employers should take the health and safety of their employees seriously. If you do not fall into one of the categories above and have health concerns surrounding returning to work, you might want to check out the standards and guidelines released by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MiOSHA) to learn more.
Michigan law includes guidance for employees on how to leave their employment for medical reasons and still remain eligible for unemployment benefits. The employee must do three things before leaving:
- get a statement from a medical professional that says continuing in the current job would be harmful to the employee’s physical or mental health;
- ask their employer for alternative work—and have this request denied; and
- ask their employer for a leave of absence to last until the employee’s mental or physical health will no longer be harmed by the current job—and have this request denied.
I’m not sure if I qualify for unemployment. Should I apply? – Back to Top
Yes. Answer the questions in the application process truthfully. This will enable the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) to determine whether you are eligible. The Governor’s executive orders and the CARES Act expanded eligibility, so a lot of people who have traditionally been unable to receive unemployment benefits are now eligible. If you are out of work and have not yet applied, you should apply.
How do I apply for unemployment? – Back to Top
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has created a series of how-to videos to help employees navigate the unemployment system and file a claim. You can find these videos here.
There are two ways to file a new claim or re-open an existing claim:
- FASTEST AND PREFERRED METHOD: Online – Visit www.michigan.gov/uia and sign into MILogin to access or create an account on the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM).
- Telephone – Call 1-866-500-0017. If you are hearing impaired, TTY service is available at 1-866-366-0004.
There are certain days you should apply:
- If your last name starts with A-L: You can apply online on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
- If your last name starts with M-Z: You can apply online on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
- If you missed your day, you can apply online on Saturdays.
People who would prefer to file their application over the phone can call 1-866-500-0017 between 8:00 am and 5:00pm.
- If your last name starts with A-L, you can call on Mondays and Wednesdays.
- If your last name starts with M-Z, you can call Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- If you miss your day, you can call Fridays.
Even with this new schedule, there may be long hold times when calling. There also could be problems accessing the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) website because of the large number of people trying to use it. If you can’t get through, try again later.
For step-by-step instructions on creating a MiWAM account, view the MiWAM Toolkit for Claimants at Michigan.gov/uia.
You will need the following information to file a claim:
- Your social security card
- Your state issued driver’s license or ID card number or your MARVIN PIN (if you have one)
- The names and addresses of employers you worked for during the past 18 months along with your quarterly gross earnings
- The first and last date of employment with each employer
- Your most recent employer’s Federal Employer ID number (FEIN) and Employer Account Number (EAN). Depending on your situation, knowing the account number may speed up the processing of your claim.
- If you are not a U.S. citizen or national, you will need your Alien Registration card and the expiration date of your work authorization.
You must certify your eligibility every two weeks to receive payment. The preferred method of certifying is online, although phone certification is also available.
- Online: Visit www.michigan.gov/uia and sign into MILogin to access your MiWAM account. Your online account is accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
- By Phone: Call MARVIN at 1-866-638-3993, Monday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
How does my immigration status impact filing for unemployment and vice-versa? – Back to Top
Most non-citizens with a valid employment authorization or social security number are eligible for expanded unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. If you are undocumented or only have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you are not eligible for unemployment insurance.
When applying for unemployment benefits, you will need to show: (1) Proof of valid work authorization and (2) Proof that you earned enough “qualifying wages” during the past six months. For wages to be qualifying, you must be a U.S. citizen or have a qualifying immigration status at the time that you apply for benefits.
Receiving unemployment benefits will NOT negatively affect your immigration status, regardless of the new “public charge” rule. See United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) information on this here. Never file for unemployment benefits with a social security number that is not yours. This is considered fraud or identity theft and can have serious civil and criminal consequences.
Those receiving PUA benefits must be authorized to work in the United States. Unfortunately, undocumented workers are not eligible to receive PUA.
If I am denied unemployment, how can I protest the decision? – Back to Top
You may protest a denial of benefits online or in writing. To safeguard your rights, you must submit the protest within 30 days from the “Mail Date” of the decision you are protesting. The Mail Date of most determinations can be found on the top-right half of the first page, along with a Letter ID, Claim number, and your name. Please note that the Mail Date may be a few days prior to the date you actually received the determination, so you should file your protest as soon as possible to make sure you stay within the 30-day deadline.
If protesting online, look for your most recent determination status and find the link highlighted in blue that says “Protest.” Click the link and answer all questions as truthfully and fully as possible. You may have an opportunity to provide supporting documents such as pay stubs, doctor’s notes, tax returns— upload these if they support your reason for protesting.
If protesting in writing, look at the determination you are protesting and find the subheading called “Protest Rights.” This heading will provide the name of the form you need to fill out and directions for its completion. For most cases, this will be the UIA 1733 Protest of a Determination (see first page of link), which will be mailed along with the determination. If you were not mailed a Protest form, you may print one off online under the “Forms” tab or use the link above. Just like with online protests, you may include copies of any supporting documents. Be as thorough and honest as possible, include all required identifying information, and double-check that you have addressed the documents properly before you send them.
Note that written protests may take a few days longer to be delivered than online protests. Because the agency measures deadlines based on when it receives your protest rather than when you mail it, you should mail as soon as possible.
Finally, you may fax a copy of your completed protest form and supporting documents to the Agency number listed under Protest Rights.
Don’t forget to sign and date the form. After receiving your protest, the UIA will issue a redetermination.
My protest was denied. Now what? – Back to Top
If your protest is denied, you will have 30 days from the “Mail Date” of the redetermination to file an appeal. The process for appealing a redetermination is mostly the same as that for protesting the initial determination: simply use the other side (second page of link) of the UIA 1733 form, or select the appropriate Protest button from within your MiWAM webpage.
After submitting an appeal within 30 days of the redetermination, the Agency will send you a Notice of Hearing. At the time of your hearing, you and whatever advocate may be assisting you will meet before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These hearings usually take place over the phone. A representative or employee of the Agency may also be on the call to ask questions and make statements.
If you reach the point of having a hearing, you may want to get legal advice. No matter what, be honest. Dishonesty in a hearing or appeal frequently leads to trouble and you may even be prosecuted for fraud.
Decisions by an administrative law judge may be appealed as well. If you believe you have a good reason to appeal the decision of an ALJ, you should seek legal help and make sure you meet all deadlines. Decisions of the ALJ may ultimately be appealed to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission.
Someone on Facebook said I should… – Back to Top
There are a lot of people requesting and sharing advice online for how best to navigate unemployment issues. You should not solicit or rely on advice from these communities. While most people are well-intentioned, their advice will usually not apply to your specific case.
The best way to preserve your rights is to be honest and to seek legal help. If you are confused by a question asked by the agency, answer it to the best of your ability and send the Agency a message explaining your confusion and why you answered the way you did. If possible, find a legal representative who can help you understand your case.
The Agency is very serious about prosecuting people for fraud. If you copy answers from an online forum or a friend for the purpose of cutting in line or gaming the system, not only will it not work, you might lose all of the benefits you would otherwise have been owed, and even be forced to pay back what you have received – plus a hefty penalty.
When do my emergency benefits end? – Back to Top
The $600/week federal supplement for those on PUA and state UI assistance ended on July 25, 2020. Pandemic Employment Assistance through the CARES Act will expire on December 31, 2020.
On August 18, 2020, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency applied to the United States Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) for funding that would provide an additional $300 per week payment to Michiganders receiving unemployment benefits. This request was approved on August 21, 2020. Eligible claimants will be paid benefits retroactive to August 1, 2020. It is not clear when this funding will end. To receive the extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits, Michigan workers should continue to certify bi-weekly. You do not need to contact the UIA or make changes to your MiWAM account to receive these additional benefits.
The effects of Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders are scheduled to continue as long as the state of emergency and disaster in Michigan continues. The Governor’s latest order extends the state of emergency through October 1, 2020.