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Michigan

COVID-19 & Michigan Updates

Michigan’s 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 COVID-19. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks. If any of your associates have already applied for benefits, they do not need to reapply at this time. The UIA will provide additional guidance regarding eligibility and application details in the next few days as it implements these new programs.

New Filing Schedule:

The new system uses alphabetical order to manage web visits and calls. It is being implemented as UIA has moved nearly all its staff members to customer service positions in order to faster assist those filing for benefits. The state is also working to expand capacity and infrastructure of their online systems. Potential benefit recipients can help alleviate the system overload by following a few simple steps:

  • Use the website, not the phone system, to apply for benefits at https://Michigan.gov/UIA.
  • Log onto the website during off-hours for better system navigation.
  • Be patient – if the page is loading slowly, do not refresh the web browser.
  • View the state’s online tool kit and frequently asked questions before filing for benefit.
  • Use the alphabetical system outlined below beginning this Sunday to help ease the burden if a call must be placed to the state.

Online Filing Schedule:

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

Call Center Filing Schedule:

  • To reach the call center, please call 866-500-0017.
  • Last names beginning with the letters A-L should call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8am – 5pm.
  • Last names beginning with the letters M-Z should to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8am – 5pm.
  • Fridays, from 8am – 5pm, will be available for anyone who could not file during their allotted window.

 

 

When an associate files will not affect whether they are approved for benefits or the amount of payment. Associates will be compensated from the date they were laid-off or released from their employment. Associates will have 28 days from their last day of work to apply for benefits.  The state advised that filing the aforementioned guidelines is the fastest way to secure benefits and that their team is working as quickly as possible to process applications.

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of any these updates. You can also review these updates on our website at https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/ too.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

 

COVID-19 & Updates in Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri

Idaho Department of Labor

The Idaho Department of Labor stated that COVID-19 impacted employees filed 13,341 new claims for benefits during the week of March 15-21, 2020. This number is up 12,310 for a 1,200 percent increase over the previous week. The state advised that their priority is to get benefits to those impacted, and eligible, as quickly as possible, as well as to help hiring employers find the staff they need as quickly as possible too.

Employees can review frequently asked questions about filing for benefits at the following website: https://www.labor.idaho.gov/dnn/Unemployment-Benfits/Questions-Answers. The state recommends that employees pull their last two years of their work history before filing online to help speed up the process.

 Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity

The fastest way for employees to file for benefits is online at https://www.Michigan.gov/UIA. The state urges employees to file during off-peak hours to avoid longer load times from 8pm to 8am local time. Employees are asked to be patient and not click more than once to reload a page.

Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development

While many businesses have been ordered to temporarily close to slow the spread of COVID-19, some Minnesota businesses are not only staying open – they are also hiring large numbers of workers and even offering hiring incentives. Not only can employees earn a paycheck in these industries, but these jobs can help serve Minnesotans and save lives. Overall, more than 3,650 new job openings were posted last week on the state’s online job bank. Similar to an ordinary week, jobs in the health care industry accounted for 23% of all new jobs posted, with hospitals and nursing homes having the largest demand for workers.

In addition to health care operations, many other businesses providing essential goods and services are hiring. Among these businesses are grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation and delivery services, banks, childcare, and food production. A growing number of employers – including U.S. Bank, Hormel, Target, and Amazon – have recently announced temporary bonuses or pay increases for some employees. Grocery stores are hiring for a variety of front-line positions including online personal shoppers, stockers, and cashiers. Some of the larger grocery retailers posting for positions in Minnesota are CUB Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, and Target. Many smaller local grocery stores are hiring as well. Moreover, government entities are hiring. For example, the Minnesota Department of Corrections is seeking Trainee-Corrections Officers at facilities across the state with immediate openings. The starting wage is $20.55 per hour. No corrections experience is necessary, and a 6-week paid training program is provided. Nationally, CVS Health announced plans this week to hire 50,000 workers across the country in a range of full-time, part-time and temporary positions. Meanwhile, Walmart announced plans last week to hire people for 150,000 jobs throughout the U.S.

If employees have recently been laid off, their skills may transfer more easily to another field than you might think. For instance, many health care employers are looking for people with skills common to employees in the leisure and hospitality industry – such as customer service experience, attention to detail, and the ability to multi-task – to fill a variety of health care positions. While many health care jobs require a state license, certificate, or passing a state exam – a lot of positions may require only on-site training. Among them are home care aides, resident aides, and direct support specialists – as well as positions in medical coding/billing, food service, and housekeeping. Entry-level jobs can be a stepping stone to higher-paid health care positions. Because demand is high, it’s not unusual for employers to help pay for training for many positions that require licensure or certification. There are also numerous grants and scholarships available.

Finally, if employees are looking for work now, or planning to look for work, they can CareerForce at https://www.careerforcemn.com/. Employees may also visit https://www.careerforcemn.com/virtual-interactive-services for links to online classes in resume writing, interviewing skills, and job search – as well as to other online resources. At CareerForceMN.com/locations, employees will find a phone number and an email address for a CareerForce location near them. If employees have trouble connecting, please advise them to call the CareerForce Help Desk at 651-259-7501 or email careerforce@state.mn.us for assistance.

Employees can file for unemployment benefits by visiting the state’s webpage at https://www.uimn.org and applying online. Visit https://www.mn.gov/deed for additional COVID-19 information and resources.

Missouri Department of Labor

While state office buildings may be closed to the public temporarily amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR) and Division of Employment Security (DES) will continue to process unemployment claims. The DES staff are performing essential functions to support Missouri employees and employers in response to this public health crisis. For the week ending March 21, 2020, the DES processed 42,207 initial claims, more than ten times the 3,976 initial claims processed during the week ending March 14, 2020. For perspective, in just one week, the DES processed nearly a quarter of the total number of claims it processed in the entirety of 2019.

Because of high call volumes, the DES encourages employees to file their claims online with UInteract at https://www.uinteract.labor.mo.gov as soon as they become unemployed. UInteract is mobile-friendly and available 24/7 to meet employee needs. Employees usually spend an average about of ten minutes to file a claim. For unemployment assistance or questions, employees can contact the DES at 1-800-320-2519 or by email at esuiclaims@labor.mo.gov. To receive assistance in a timely manner, please advise your employees to include their name, phone number, and last four digits of their social security number. Employees can also watch video tutorials of the system and these are available at https://www.labor.mo.gov/coronavirus. The DES recently expanded UInteract to handled increased workload and will monitor the system 24/7 for potential issues too.

Finally, please remember that the DES also relaxed some requirements for filing for benefits such as eliminating the need to search for work for those who file COVID-19 related claims. The DES is currently working on temporarily waiving the waiting week requirement for COVID-19 related claims. Additionally, the DES has announced that it will temporarily waive charges for COVID-19 related claims to the respective employer’s experience rating accounts. The DES continues to review guidance received from the US Department of Labor for additional changes. It is also important to remember that employers pay into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund from which benefits are provided to eligible workers. Employees do not pay anything into the unemployment insurance trust fund. It is wholly funded by employers.

For answers to more COVID-19 related unemployment questions, visit https://www.labor.mo.gov/coronavirus.

Thomas & Company Reminder

Our office will be monitoring COVID-19 updates closely and will be sending out additional announcements on our website as we become aware of new development: https://www.thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

COVID-19 & Michigan Updates

Informational Webinars

The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will be hosting several hour-long informational webinars for Michigan employers regarding unemployment insurance and the recent Executive Orders 2020-09 and 2020-10. All webinars will be conducted using Microsoft Skype for Business. Below are the webinar dates and times. Please visit https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98178_98179—,00.html for links to these webinars.

Monday, March 23, 2 – 3 p.m.

Dial-in Number: (248) 509-0316

Conference ID: 473769071

Tuesday, March 24, 10 – 11 a.m.

Dial-in Number: (248) 509-0316

Conference ID: 616070893

Tuesday, March 24, 2 – 3 p.m. 

Dial-in Number: (248) 509-0316

Conference ID: 794829308

Unemployment Resources

The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) and Michigan Works! strongly encourage individuals to use online resources for unemployment assistance. State offices will remain open, but they will limit the amount of people within the offices at one time.

Individuals should apply for unemployment benefits at www.michigan.gov/UIA or by calling 1-866-500-0017. A factsheet on how to apply for benefits can also be found at the following website: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/uia/160_-_Claiming_UI_Benefit_In_Michigan_-_Jan2014_444213_7.pdf. Michigan Works! resources can be found at www.michiganworks.com or by calling 1-800-285-WORKS.

COVID-19_Michigan Updates_3-23-2020_Also, the state’s Governor signed Executive Order 2020-10 to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits. Under the order, an employer or employing unit will not be charged for benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations.

Under the governor’s order, benefits would be extended 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.

Access to benefits for unemployed workers will also be extended:

  • Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks.
  • The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days.
  • The normal in-person registration and work search requirements are suspended.

State Guidance for Layoffs

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity provided guidance to Michigan employers on how to avoid potential layoffs related to COVID-19.  The state strongly urges job employers facing work shortages to place their employees on temporary leave, as opposed to termination, so that the employees may remain eligible for potential federal assistance.

  • Elimination of Certain Unemployment Costs to Employers: Under the governor’s order, an employer or employing unit will not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations.
  • Work Share: If employers are financially distressed but hope to continue operations by cutting back hours, they are encouraged to use the UIA’s Work Share program that allows employers to maintain employment levels and business operations during declines in regular business activity rather than laying off workers. More information about the program can be found at michigan.gov/workshare.
  • Temporary Leave vs. Termination: The state also strongly urges employers to place employees on temporary leave and advise the employee that they expect to have work available within 120-days as opposed to termination due to the uncertainty surrounding potential congressional action on whether, and how, furloughed workers will be able to access federal paid sick, family, and medical leave resources. There is no additional cost to employers, employees remain eligible for benefits through the state, and employees may remain eligible for potential federal assistance.

Steps for employers placing employers on temporary unpaid leave:

  • Do not terminate the employee. Specify a temporary/indefinite leave with return to work expected that is within 120 days.
  • Do not create a contractual obligation to bring the employee back to work. Let the employee know that the situation is fluid and subject to change.
  • Provide the employee with a formal Unemployment Compensation Notice. Employers will need to provide their Employer Account Number and Federal Identification Number.
  • Communicate to the employee about their rights. Under Governor Whitmer’s recent Executive Order, workers are placed on leave, or are unable to work because they are sick, quarantined, immunocompromised, or have an unanticipated family care responsibility, are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Ensure employers are provided information on how to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. A factsheet can be found here.
  • Get each employee’s up-to-date contact information.
  • Let employees know if you will be putting updated information on the entity’s website or intranet, if applicable.
  • Appoint a single, or limited number of individuals who will field questions, and communicate that information to employees.
  • Keep a tally of all questions and answers. Periodically share with employees.
  • The state is monitoring issues related to continued medical insurance coverage and will update accordingly.

Other Resources

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s call center is ready to support businesses looking for assistance through other available state programs. For more information, visit the MEDC’s website: www.michiganbusiness.org or call (888) 522-0103. The Michigan Small Business Development Center can also provide resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Visit their website https://sbdcmichigan.org/small-business-covid19/ for additional information.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly and the latest information is available at www.Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or www.CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

 

Downloadable PDF: COVID-19_Shared Work Programs_3-23-2020