Last week, Metro Times spoke to people who had been waiting for weeks for their unemployment checks amid the economic shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis — and some who had been waiting nearly two months.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that should help speed things up.
Executive Order 2020-76 allows the state to review only an individual's most recent job separation, the cause of the current unemployment, to determine the individual's benefit entitlement.
"Nobody should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a crisis," Whitmer said in a statement. "Michiganders everywhere have lost work because of COVID-19, and we must ensure they receive the benefits they’re entitled to as quickly and efficiently as possible. This Executive Order will take us one step closer toward that goal by temporarily eliminating red tape as we continue to flatten the curve of this deadly disease."
The order also:
• Expands the state’s workshare program, offering more tools to employers to reduce layoffs and restart their business.
• Extends unemployment benefits to workers:
• Who have an unanticipated family care responsibility.
• Who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
• Extends unemployment benefits to workers who voluntarily left a job after accepting new employment but were unable to start their new position due to the pandemic.
• Allows anyone with an active unemployment claim to receive up to 26 weeks of benefits.
• Suspends the requirement for individuals seeking unemployment to request a registration and work search waiver from their employer.
• Allows Unemployment Insurance Agency retirees to keep their retirement benefits if they return to work to process unemployment claims or serve on the Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
• Expands cost-sharing with employers to reduce layoffs.
According to a press release from the governor's office, Michigan has the second-lowest percentage of claimants still awaiting a decision on benefits, behind only New York. Michigan is third behind Vermont and West Virginia in the percentage of claimants receiving benefits.
Michigan's unemployment claims have decreased in the past week, with 68,952 filed the week ending May 2, compared to 80,465 the week before. Since March 15, more than 1.33 million in Michigan have filed for unemployment benefits — or more than a quarter of the state's workforce.
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