State News

How Michigan's pandemic job-loss victims benefit from extended aid

December 29, 2020, 8:57 AM

Unemployment benefits expired last week for over half a million Michigan residents, who can count on some federal and state help.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to sign a $465-million relief package that cleared the House and Senate this month. It provides $220 million to extend unemployment benefits to 26 weeks through March. In addition, a measure signed Sunday by President Trump means Pandemic Unemployment Compensation recipients get an additional $300 per week from Dec. 27 through next March 13.

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(Photo: Unemployment Insurance Agency)

But "due to the timing of the [federal] legislation's finalization, there will be a delay in certification and payment of benefits for those currently enrolled," the state Unemployment Insurance Agency says in a statement. "This will only be a disruption and claimants will be made whole once the extensions are fully implemented."

Michigan and all other states must await U.S. Labor Department guidance before proceeding.

That same national legislation extends a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program from 39 to 50 weeks until March 14, when no new applications can be filed. Payments end April 5, 

Beginning at the end of January, new and active claimants must provide documentation to confirm employment status, rather than self-certification, as is now the case.

"This federal extension will bring much-needed relief to nearly 700,000 Michigan workers who are currently receiving benefits under the PUA and PEUC [Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compoensation] programs,” said Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of the state jobless insurance agency. “The continuation of these benefits coupled with the additional $300 in weekly payments for all claimants will provide our workers with the emergency financial assistance to buy essential items like groceries and prescription drugs.”

Recipients are advised to check the agency site for more information as it becomes available.

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(File photo: Michael Lucido)

In addition to longer unemployment aid, the bill awaiting Whitmer's signature has $63.5 million for small-business survival grants and $45 million for workers affected by the pandemic. If the bill as passed becomes law, businesses could be eligible for up to $20,000 in grants and individuals could get $1,650 grants. Workers must show they lost wages or employment due to emergency health orders.

Businesses completely shut due to pandemic restrictions could receive up to $20,000, while those partially closed are eligible for $15,000.  

It's unclear when businesses or workers will see that money because an application processl must be created.

Tax statements for 2020 unemployment benefits will be available online in mid-January. A digital copy can be requested here by this Saturday, Jan. 2. Claimants who don't choose to receive electronically will get mailed statements.

Democratic state lawmakers and others call for a permanent extension of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, up from 20, along with an increase in the weekly benefit amount, the Detroit Free Press posts today.

Despite the fact that Covid-19 cases are rising around the country and businesses are permanently closing their doors, the action taken at the federal and state level will only provide temporary relief, economists and unemployment experts say.



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