Michigan joins other states in expanding unemployment benefits to assist employees during COVID-19 pandemic

Governors nationwide are taking unprecedented steps to mitigate negative impacts on businesses and their employees caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Most recently, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine followed their Illinois counterpart and announced that their respective state governments will be expanding coverage for unemployment benefits, effective immediately. Illinois’ Governor JB Pritzker announced such a plan last week.

The Michigan plan broadens benefits to cover workers who are impacted by COVID-19 for the following reasons: 

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.  
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Like Illinois and Ohio, Michigan will now waive the waiting period to qualify for unemployment benefits, the in-person registration, and the requirement that workers receiving benefits actively search for work. 

Additionally, the Michigan plan increases the benefits period from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Given the likely temporary nature of the COVID-19 employee displacements, employers must still follow any requirements to notify state unemployment agencies of expected return to work dates for their workers and their layoff or partial layoff statuses. 

Significantly, businesses required to close by Executive Order, such as bars, restaurants, and gyms, will not be charged for unemployment benefits due to the order. Governor Whitmer’s order also expands Michigan’s Work Share Program that permits employers to maintain operational productivity during declines in regular business activity instead of laying off workers. Information about Work Share can be found here.

The Michigan Executive Order is effective as of March 16, 2020 through April 14, 2020. Depending on the circumstances at that time, the Order may be extended. 

We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on employers. Should you need additional information, assistance with unemployment benefits issues, or guidance of any kind, our team of McDonald Hopkins attorneys is available to assist your organization.

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