Gov’s office: Order will speed up unemployment benefits for thousands

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Wednesday night that her office says will expedite “unemployment benefits for tens of thousands” of Michigan residents.

The order allows the state to review only an individual’s most recent job separation, which is the cause of the current unemployment, to determine whether the person gets benefits, according to a press release.

“Michiganders everywhere have lost work because of COVID-19, and we must ensure they receive the benefits they’re entitled to as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Whitmer said. “This executive order will take us one step closer toward that goal by temporarily eliminating red tape as we continue to flatten the curve of this deadly disease.”

Michigan has experienced record levels of unemployment filings in recent weeks after the state effectively shut down the economy to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

More than 1.2 million people in Michigan filed for unemployment from March 15 through April 25, according to state data.

But many residents have reported problems filing their claims as the state’s unemployment website has been swamped.

Steve Gray, director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency, acknowledged last week that there were tens of thousands of people who still were waiting in a proverbial line to get assistance with their claims from the state.

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Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency director Steve Gray talks about benefits and issues and answers reader questions with Craig Mauger. The Detroit News

The governor’s new executive order aims to help streamline the handling of claims by temporarily barring the agency from making eligibility determinations based on separations from other recent employers instead of the most recent or “separating” employer.

The aspect of a filing is an example of a so-called “non-monetary issue” that could delay benefits.

Rep. Jim Haadsma, D-Battle Creek, tweeted that the governor’s order “will relieve many desperate workers.”

The new order also continued other changes Whitmer has made to expand unemployment qualifications, including extending benefits to those who have an unanticipated family care responsibility or who are quarantined without access to paid family and medical leave.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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