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Workplace Law Lowdown: Unemployed Michiganders are Now Eligible for an Additional $300 per Week

By: Rebecca C. Seguin-Skrabucha

08/31/20

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, which afforded eligible individuals $600 in supplemental unemployment compensation benefits through much of the COVID-19 crisis, ceased on July 31, 2020.  Congress failed to reach a consensus on an extension thereto, so, on August 8, 2020, President Trump signed a Memorandum, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to “provide financial assistance for the needs of those who have lost employment as a result of the pandemic.”

To secure these funds, Governor Whitmer and Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) submitted an application to FEMA on August 18, 2020.  Their application was approved on August 21, 2020.  Many of the implications of this approval, though, remain unclear.  
 
Claimants who are eligible for at least $100 in unemployment compensation benefits will receive an additional $300 per week, retroactive to August 1, 2020, and prospective to an indeterminate date.  Claimants need not take any additional actions to receive the weekly $300 benefit, and the UIA Director Steve Gray notes, “Our goal now is to work as quickly as possible to implement this new program to get people the benefits they need.”  
 
Despite no delineated end date, the $44 million allocated for FEMA’s disbursement may exhaust as early as September 2020, prompting Governor Whitmer’s warning, “[I]t’s still a short term band aid that falls short of what’s needed.”   
 
Whether FEMA’s funds will support long-term assistance to unemployed individuals, and whether state or federal legislation will provide more than a “band aid,” remain unknown.  

In the meantime, employers should remember that Executive Order 2020-76 expands the reasons for which an individual may be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits: 

  1. Being under self-isolation or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immunocompromised; 

  2. Displaying at least one of the principal symptoms of COVID-19; 

  3. Having close contact in the last 14 days with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis;  

  4. Needing to care for someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis; and 

  5.  Fulfilling a family care responsibility as a result of a government directive (e.g., caring for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or otherwise unavailable due to COVID-19).   

Employers should contact any member of Bodman’s Workplace Law Group to discuss the effects of the availability of additional unemployment compensation benefits on their workforce. Bodman cannot respond to your questions or receive information from you without first clearing potential conflicts with other clients. Thank you for your patience and understanding.