Coronavirus and Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Have the rules for unemployment compensation in Michigan changed because of COVID-19?Back to Top

Yes. Michigan used to have a number of requirements for who could receive unemployment benefits. Under the old rules, an individual had to:

  • Have a certain amount of earnings over the last 5 quarters (roughly 1.5 years); AND
  • Be able to work; AND
  • Be available for work; AND
  • Be actively seeking full time employment; AND
  • NOT be fired for misconduct connected with your job, such as intoxication, illegal drug use or possession on the employer’s premises, assault and battery, incarceration (other than a traffic violation for less than 10 days), theft, willful destruction of property, or other willful and wanton disregard of the employer’s interests.

The weekly benefit amount from the State of Michigan was capped at $362 for up to 20 weeks in a one-year period.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Governor has issued several executive orders that reduce these requirements for unemployment and increase the number of weeks someone can receive benefits. Congress also passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act, which further expands eligibility and increases the amount and duration of payments. Read on for the details.

How do the Governor’s executive orders change who can apply for and receive 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.

Do the Governor’s executive orders increase the number of weeks someone can receive benefits?Back to Top

Yes. Michigan now provides for unemployed workers to receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment, instead of 20.

I heard you need to look for work while receiving unemployment. Do I need to be looking for a job right now?Back to Top

No. Michigan law generally requires that those receiving unemployment compensation are actively searching for work. In light of the pandemic, however, that requirement has been waived for the time being, and people do not need to look for work to continue receiving their benefits.

How does the CARES Act affect unemployment compensation?Back to Top

The CARES Act included significant expansions of unemployment compensation. 

  • It provides an extra $600 per week through the end of July 2020.
  • It provides an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.
  • It allows people who would not normally be eligible for unemployment compensation to receive benefits, including independent contractors, gig workers, and freelance workers.

How does the CARES Act impact people who already qualify for unemployment?Back to Top

The CARES Act expands existing unemployment benefits in two important ways: (1) it creates Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides for an extra $600 weekly payment in addition to the amount an eligible employee receives under state law; and (2) it increases the maximum number of weeks an individual may receive benefits.

Individuals who are eligible for unemployment benefits will receive an extra $600 weekly benefit for all weeks of unemployment between April 5, 2020 and July 31, 2020, in addition to the amount the individual otherwise would be entitled to receive under state law (up to $362 in Michigan).

The CARES Act gives an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who have used up the unemployment benefits they are otherwise entitled to under state law. So, in Michigan, recipients can get a maximum of 39 weeks of benefits. The extended benefits are available through December 31, 2020. Any of the additional 13 weeks of benefits received before July 31, 2020 should include the extra $600 payment discussed above. After July 31, the additional weeks will be paid at the regular weekly rate under state law (up to $362 in Michigan).

If an individual is already receiving unemployment benefits, qualifies for unemployment benefits under state law, or is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, that person is eligible to receive the additional 13 weeks.

I’ve been denied unemployment in the past because I only work part-time.  Should I bother to apply now?Back to Top

Yes. The CARES act created a new program, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to provide benefits for workers who were not previously eligible for unemployment compensation. The following groups of workers are now eligible for benefits:

  • Self-employed people
  • Independent contractors
  • Freelancers
  • “Gig workers” such as musicians, photographers, and other workers that get paid per event worked
  • Low-wage workers and those with limited work history

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 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 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 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).

People that are eligible for PUA will receive the state benefit (up to $362 in Michigan), plus an additional $600 per week in federal benefits until July 30, 2020.

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.

Will my unemployment benefits be taxed?Back to Top

Yes. All unemployment compensation, including the extra $600, are 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 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. Because benefits have been expanded to include people who have traditionally been unable to receive unemployment benefits, it is worth applying if you are out of work at this time.

Can I get unemployment if I haven’t been laid off, but I’m afraid to go to work because I might get coronavirus?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.

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 calling or using the website 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?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.

I was previously denied unemployment, but I think I qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. How do I apply?Back to Top

Yes. If you were denied benefits previously, but think you are eligible under the new rules, you can login to your MiWAM account at Michigan.gov/UIA to complete the next steps for federal benefits. You should not file a new claim, as it may delay the time it takes to get your benefits. All newly eligible workers will need to provide proof of income to receive the maximum amount they are entitled to. This could include W-2s, 1099 tax forms and pay stubs.

If I am denied unemployment, how can I protest the decision? Back to Top

The initial assessment of your unemployment application will be done by a computer program, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MIDAS). The MIDAS system analyzes your answers to the initial application and generates an automated determination of eligibility. MIDAS does not always give the correct eligibility determination and either you or your employer can protest the determination.

If you are denied unemployment benefits, you have the right to protest that determination within 30 days of the date of the determination. The UIA must receive your written protest of the determination by the 30th day after the determination was issued. If you do not submit your protest on time, the determination becomes final unless you demonstrate good cause for the late filing. Use this form for filing a Protest of Determination. You can submit your protest by uploading it through MiWAM, by faxing it, or by mailing it. 

If you protest a determination, you can explain more about your situation in your request for a redetermination. The UIA will then issue a redetermination. If you are still denied benefits, you may appeal the redetermination within 30 days, and an administrative hearing will be scheduled. You can use the other side of this form to appeal a redetermination. If the redetermination results in you receiving benefits, you should receive benefits for each week you are eligible. Either you or your employer may appeal the redetermination and have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. If you reach the point of having a hearing, you may want to get legal advice. Decisions by an administrative law judge may be appealed as well.