Unemployment Resource Center

This resource center is intended to help local leaders and members more confidently navigate the Michigan Unemployment Insurance (UI) system. Ultimately, each member must make individual decisions about whether and how to apply for unemployment benefits based on their specific situation, but AFT Michigan works with the Sugar Law Center for Social & Economic Justice to provide support to locals and members in understanding your choices and possible strategies. If you are an AFT Michigan member and have questions or suggestions for other resources to add to this page, contact unemployment@aftmichigan.org.

Who is Eligible for Unemployment?

Generally speaking, you are eligible if:

  • you are unemployed through no fault of your own;
  • you have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you became unemployed;
  • you are able and available to work, and you are actively seeking employment. (During COVID, the requirement to actively seek employment has been waived.)

Governor Whitmer Announces New Programs to Increase and Expand Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by COVID-19; Benefits increased for all unemployed workers, expanded to self-employed and low-wage workers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new programs for workers affected by COVID-19. The governor, under the federal CARES Act, signed an agreement between Michigan and the U.S. Dept. of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who do not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the pandemic. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks.

“The State of Michigan is dedicated to implementing measures to protect the health of all our residents and we understand financial health is critical as we meet this challenge together,” said Whitmer. “This increase and expansion of unemployment benefits will provide a measure of security for Michigan working families who lost their income due to the pandemic. We are committed to ensuring emergency financial relief for unemployed residents who continue to stay home and stay safe.”

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will provide additional guidance regarding eligibility and application details in the coming days as it implements these new programs.

Benefits Extended to Self-Employed, Low-Wage, and Other Workers Affected by COVID-19
Under the CARES Act, individuals who are not already eligible for Michigan’s unemployment programs will now be provided a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months on top of the state benefit. Benefits are available for up to 39 weeks. These newly eligible individuals include self-employed workers, independent contractors, low-wage workers and those with a limited work history.

Benefits Increased for All Unemployed Workers
Under the CARES Act, weekly benefits for all unemployed workers will be increased by a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months. This applies to workers already in the unemployment system and eligible employees about to apply. These workers do not need to reapply and those about to apply do not need to take additional steps and should file as usual. If a worker’s application has previously been denied by the UIA in the past three weeks there is no need for them to reapply at this time. They will be notified by the agency with any additional action that may need to be taken.

“We appreciate the patience Michigan residents have shown with the unemployment system over the last few weeks as we continue to provide emergency financial assistance during this historical demand. I want to assure every eligible worker in our state who needs to apply for unemployment benefits that they will receive them,” said Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “We continue to urge workers to apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA and to utilize our new filing schedule based on their last name. UIA staff is working as hard and fast as they can to process claims and we continue to reallocate resources and upgrade technology to serve our customers.”

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19. The eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage.

New Filing Schedule:

Online Filing Schedule – Michigan.gov/UIA. Workers are encouraged to go online during off-peak times between 8PM-8AM

  • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
  • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

Call Center Filing Schedule – 866-500-0017:

  • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8:00am – 5:00pm.
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:00am – 5:00pm.
  • Fridays (8:00am – 5:00pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

For more information visit Michigan.gov/UIA.

Unemployment Insurance Eligibility Expanded to Include Workers Displaced by COVID-19

Governor Gretchen Whitmer temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits until April 14. Under the governor’s order, unemployment benefits are now also available to:

  • 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.

Additionally, all workers who are terminated or laid off may apply for unemployment insurance.

Click here for the Michigan Unemployment Agency’s COVID-19 Guide for information on applying for UI benefits.

Due to COVID-19, Unemployment Insurance Agency Closes Lobbies Except for Appointments

The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) today announced that beginning March 18, at 3 p.m, it will close its lobbies to visits from the public, except for customers with appointments. These changes will remain effective as long as necessary for the health and safety of the public.

UIA offices will continue to serve the public and eligible employees are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits online at www.michigan.gov/UIA or by calling 1-866-500-0017. Details on how to apply are also available online.

“Michigan is doing all it can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We are asking residents to protect their health by not going into group settings unless necessary,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “Limiting public visits to our UIA lobbies and eliminating in-person registration and work search requirements are critical steps in this emergency. The fastest and best method for unemployment resources can be found online at Michigan.gov/UIA. Residents can also connect with our agency by calling 1-866-500-0017.”

UIA online resources include:

  • File a claim for unemployment benefits
  • Chat with a customer service agent (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Send a message to a customer service agent (weekdays after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. and weekends)
  • Manage your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

This announcement comes after Executive Order 2020-10 that expanded eligibility and suspended requirements for residents complete in-person registration and work search requirements in order to receive benefits.

View additional unemployment resources for employees.

Applying for Unemployment

  • Unfortunately, nobody can tell you for sure until you actually apply. 
  • Generally speaking, you are eligible if: 
    • you are unemployed through no fault of your own;
    • you have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you became unemployed; 
    • you are able and available to work, and you are actively seeking employment. (During COVID, the requirement to actively seek employment has been waived.) 
  • You could also be eligible if you are no longer working through no fault of your own because of COVID-19.  This means you should consider applying if:
    • You are not working this summer and had a reasonable expectation that you would be working before the pandemic, or
    • Your hours have been reduced.
  • You may also be eligible for unemployment if you are unable to report to work during the pandemic because you are immunocompromised and/or do not have childcare.
    • However, you will have to meet a higher standard to prove that you separated for “good cause attributable to the employer” because of “health and safety reasons.” 
    • At a minimum, this means that before you “quit,” you would need to notify the employer providing evidence why you can no longer work safely.
  • You should apply anyway!  Answer the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. So long as you are not filing fraudulently, the worst possible outcome is denial. 

The system itself is set up to gather the information to determine whether or not you are eligible. 

  • You should apply as soon as possible following a change in employment status that substantially lowers your total income
    • Your last day of work is generally the last day you perform duties for the employer (not necessarily the last date you are paid). This is also the day your “claim period” begins. 
    • The change in employment status can be either a reduction of hours or separation from the employer.
  • Typically you have 14 days after your last day of work to file (the time period has been temporarily extended to 28 days as a result of COVID). 
  • Social Security Number
  • Employment information for the past 18 months (employer name and address, first/last day worked, and gross earnings for all employers)
  • Your address, phone number, date of birth
  • Your most recent employer’s Federal Employer ID (FEIN) and Employer Account Number (EAN) — both can be found on your W2. 
  • (Non-US Citizens) Alien registration and the expiration date on your work authorization card.
  • The fastest and preferred method is online: www.michigan.gov/uia  
  • You can also apply by telephone – 1866-500-0017, TTY services – 1866-366-0004
  • Do your best to complete the necessary information so that you can complete your submission.  If there is a need for more information, you may receive a fact-finding form. 
  • You can also try to talk to a human being by calling 1-866-500-0017, TTY services – 1-866-366-0004.

Special Circumstances Faced By Educators

Michigan’s unemployment insurance system is confusing in many ways, particularly involving education employees.  Some employees of educational institutions are ineligible for unemployment benefits at certain times of the year because of what is called the school denial period.

  • A provision in unemployment insurance law that renders employees ineligible for unemployment insurance when they are not working when the institution is on a typical break period between academic terms (think K-12 teachers over the summer between school years). 
  • Employees are ineligible based on school denial when they have received reasonable assurance that they will return to work at the conclusion of the institution’s typical break period.

Claims by educational employees are often automatically denied by the computer system because of a misapplication of the school denial period. This means applicants need to be prepared to protest/appeal their determination.

  • You should apply anyway!  Answer the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. So long as you are not filing fraudulently, the worst possible outcome is denial. 

The system itself is set up to gather the information to determine whether or not you are eligible. 

  • First,  if you are not working because the institution is on a  typical break, but you have not received reasonable assurance that you will be working when the break period is over. 
  • Second, if you have been laid off and your institution is not on a typical break. For higher education, lighter course offerings over the summer do not constitute a typical break period (the 1-2 weeks between semesters when no classes are offered are a typical break period).
  • Third, if others in your job classification work during the typical break period, but you are not working because of limited work opportunities.

This means there are some common situations when educational employees are likely eligible:

  • Contingent faculty members should be eligible for unemployment when they are not offered classes for a semester, even during the summer semester.  Lighter course offerings over the summer do not constitute a typical break period (the 1-2 weeks between semesters when no classes are offered are a typical break period).
  • Paraprofessionals and other Support Staff should be eligible for unemployment over the typical break period if there is typically available work during the summer, but it is so limited that it results in layoff for some members. 

Determinations, Protests, and Appeals, Oh My!

For the reasons listed above, many if not most AFT Michigan members will not be immediately approved. Having to protest or appeal a determination can feel disappointing, but it’s all part of the normal process.

Continue to check your MiWAM account. Sometimes you will be sent a Fact-Finding Form because the system needs more information. Fill out this form within 10 days of receipt.

Don’t panic. Claims are denied for many different reasons and oftentimes erroneously denied by the computer program. AFT Michigan members are most often denied for the following reasons:

  • Ineligible because of the school denial period
  • Separation from work was voluntary (and not for good cause)
  • Separation from work was because of misconduct
  • Refusal to accept work offered
  • Protest the determination by filling out the protest form in MiWAM (unless you are convinced the denial is well-founded). 
  • Protests can be made by filling out the protest form on the MiWAM website or by faxing or mailing the protest form to the addresses listed on the determination. 
  • While claimants have 30 days to protest after a determination is issued, you should file your protest as soon as possible.
  • During this process, continue certifying your claim bi-weekly on MARVIN or MiWAM
  • Your protest could be as simple as stating: “I disagree with this decision and request a hearing” 
  • You may also choose to offer a more specific statement like “ I disagree with this decision because I was laid off by my employer on (date).”
  • You may include copies of documents like layoff notices with your protest but are not required to. 
  • You will be issued a re-determination.  This may be a monetary determination or a denial.
  • If you are denied, you should appeal and request a hearing by filing an appeal.  Your request for appeal should state: “I disagree with this decision and request a hearing.” 
  • Don’t panic.  You can appeal to have a hearing before an administrative law judge. 
  • If you are a dues-paying AFT Michigan member, contact unemployment@aftmichigan.org for support with your case
  • Keep “certifying” by logging into the system and reporting all income from any employer.
  • Continuously check your account in MiWAM for messages (often under the “Claims” or “Determination” tabs).
  • Contact unemployment@aftmichigan.org for support with your case.
  • Continuously check your account in MiWAM for messages and be sure to attend any hearings. If a hearing is scheduled at a time that you cannot attend, be sure to ask for the hearing to be rescheduled more than three days ahead of time.
  • If you end up being billed by the state to return benefits already received at the end of the process, you may still be able to appeal for it to be reversed or waived.