Michigan officials say newly expanded unemployment benefits for independent contractors, “gig” economy and low-wage workers will be available in the coming days as jobless claims reach record levels because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials reported this morning that Michigan unemployment claims exceeded 817,000 from March 15 through April 4, including more than 384,000 last week. Nationally, about 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment last week.
The spike in activity because of widespread closures to contain the spread of the coronavirus strained the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, which has increased staffing and call center hours to address the backlog.
The CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package signed into law by President Trump on March 27, extended unemployment benefits to independent contractors and self-employed and low-wage workers. The law also adds $600 in weekly benefits to unemployed workers on top of state benefits for 39 weeks.
On March 30, Gov. Gretchen Whiter signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to move the process forward in Michigan. Earlier this week, the Labor Department issued guidance to states on how to unroll the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity spokesperson Jason Moon said this morning that the state is “finalizing the application process” for the newly qualified workers. The state effectively had to redesign its application system to accept the new types of workers.
“I expect an announcement by the weekend,” he said.
For those who have applied and have been denied, Moon said they will receive guidance on what to do next. It’s unclear how many more workers may qualify for unemployment benefits.