The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted workers and employers in unprecedented ways. In response, with Mich Exec Order No 2020-57, Governor Gretchen Whitmer temporarily relaxed the eligibility requirements for those Michigan workers seeking unemployment benefits. These eligibility requirements and benefits were further broadened
with the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)1.
Michigan Unemployment Benefits Versus CARES
Employees are eligible for a maximum weekly benefit of $362 under the Michigan Employment Security Act2. The eligibility requirements are relaxed due to Mich Exec Order No 2020-57 due to the mass unemployment caused by the pandemic. If the unemployment is related to COVID-19, generally, individuals are eligible for benefits. The disqualifications for benefits under MCL 421.29(1)(a) are suspended during the length of the order.
The CARES Act expands unemployment benefits in two ways: (1) eligibility and (2) amount. Employees who previously could not apply, such as independent contractors, those who are self-employed, gig and low-wage workers, are now able to apply. The weekly cap was increased by the CARES Act to $600. In Michigan, there is a maximum weekly cap of $362. This means that an eligible recipient could receive up to $962. It’s important to note that in order to be eligible for the additional $600, the reason for lack of work must relate to COVID-19.
Worker and Specific Concerns
Most individuals have questions related to eligibility at this point. For example, do past restitution and repayment determinations, pursuant to MCL 421.54 and 421.62, preclude unemployment eligibility for expanded unemployment benefits? Employees are not precluded from receiving expanded unemployment benefits simply based on past restitution and repayment determinations from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). However, the UIA may deduct up to 50 percent of any benefit payment to pay back restitution and interest. Deductions of up to 100 percent of any benefit may be used to pay back restitution involving fraud or intentional misrepresentation. Id. (See exhibit A—Restitution Guide.) The
UIA cannot collect restitution more than three years after the final determination, redetermination, or decision establishing restitution.
Part-time employees want to know if they are eligible for expanded unemployment benefits. Part-time employees may collect partial unemployment benefits for those weeks they work less than full time as long as their gross earnings are not more than 1.5 times their weekly unemployment rate and meet all other requirements under Mich Exec Order No 2020-57 and
the Michigan Employment Security Act. MCL 421.46, .48. Employees receiving worker’s compensation benefits under the Michigan Worker’s Disability Compensation Act3 have questions about their eligibility for the expanded unemployment benefits. This issue might arise when an employee was working on medical restrictions from a work injury and receiving partial workers’ compensation benefits. The employee becomes unemployed due to the pandemic. The question is whether the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits? Yes, however, the worker’s compensation benefits are subject to an offset of the employee’s unemployment benefits. See MCL 418.358; see also Flint v GMC, 184 Mich App 340, 457 NW2d 157 (1990); Paschke v Retool Indus, 445 Mich 502, 519 NW2d 441 (1994). It may be beneficial for the employee to apply for state and federal pandemic unemployment relief to ensure that the employee receives the maximum amount of economic relief available during the pandemic. However, these employees should consult with an experienced worker’s compensation attorney if confronted with this issue in order to protect the worker’s compensation claim and benefits.
Though these are challenging times, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This information was accurate as of May 5, 2020 and should not be considered legal advice. Rather guidelines to assist employees and independent contractors in Michigan in these unknown times.
1.Pub L No 116-136, 134 Stat 281
2. MCL 421.27
3. MCL 418.101 et seq
Posted 05/05/20 on ICLE/ICLE contributors: Daimeon Cotton, Alexis F. Johnson, and Maximillian (Max) H. Matthies