GLADWIN COUNTY – With the number of unemployment claims reaching as high as 311,000 in a week last month, many first time claimers are still confused about how it all works. On Friday, May 1, the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce hosted another Zoom meeting focusing directly on unemployment concerns and questions.
Tawnee Hadd, Management Information System (MIS) Manager and Anna Hetherington, Career Transition Coordinator both from the local MichiganWorks! (Region 7B) went through frequently asked questions relating to unemployment.
Tawnee mentioned that she works with all of the programs through MichiganWorks! on a regular basis, however that working with people on unemployment and the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has been a bigger part of her job lately.
“I knew a lot about unemployment before, but not to the extent that I know now because of what is going on,” Tawnee said.
Anna Hetherington announced in the beginning of the meeting that currently, the main focus of MichiganWorks! is helping people with the unemployment process.
Both Tawnee and Anna compiled a list of frequently asked questions that they have been recently receiving. They then worked to “narrow down” the list to cover the most important things to know and presented it during the online meeting.
Firstly, Anna gave information about contacting the Unemployment Insurance Agency as well as accessing their website.
“There is a lot of people right now that have never filed in their life,” Anna said. “They have no idea what to do, what the process is or how to even contact UIA.”
According to Anna, people are able to access their UIA information 24/7 online at michigan.gov/uia. Phone lines are also available from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, the number to call is 866-500-0017. After numerous amounts of feedback, Anna now believes filing online is a better and more reliable way to go. “If you call and you’re not put on with one of the 200 people who answer phones, they only have a 2,000 person hold line. So if you don’t get on that hold line, the call will end, give you a busy signal, or it will say they are temporarily unavailable.”
Normally, MichiganWorks! has no way of accessing any information from the UIA. However, due to the crisis and the large amount of filing traffic, the UIA has granted MichiganWorks! with access to some of their systems.
“We can’t necessarily fix something, but we can troubleshoot, we can tell you what is going on and what is holding [your unemployment process] up, and we can give some guidance by looking up your claim,” Anna said.
PUC and receiving unemployment while under limited pay
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation adds an additional benefit of a flat $600 a week to regular unemployment insurance. This additional benefit also applies for those who are receiving only partial unemployment.
For those who are curious about returning to work with limited pay, the calculation for determining if a person will qualify for the PUC additional unemployment benefits depends on the persons weekly benefit and how much they are being paid by an employer per week. To figure out if an individual qualifies, they would use the amount they make from their weekly unemployment benefit, multiply it by 1.5, and then see if that total number is more or less than their employer’s pay amounts to.
The example Tawnee and Anna give is that a person receives $160 from unemployment per week, multiplying that by 1.5, gives that person an amount of $240 to use as a way of figuring out if they are eligible for unemployment benefits or not. If the person reports that they are making $240 or more from their employer, then they will not qualify for the additional benefits, however if they report pay at $239 or less, they would then qualify for the additional benefits.
This process also remains relevant for those who are still working, but are receiving less pay or limited hours of pay per week. In that case, the person would want to file for unemployment as usual but then report the amount they make during the questioning process. The person would then have to see how much they would receive in unemployment pay in order to determine if they would receive additional benefits.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is federal money that the state received for unemployment. The money is for people who are filing who would not normally apply or who would not normally be eligible for unemployment. These people include but are not limited to those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and part-time employees. According to Tawnee, filers are unable to qualify for both PUA and PUC. While filing, the UIA will be able to figure out which program a person qualifies for.
Contacting Michigan Works!
Tawnee has noticed that people are losing their ability to file over confusion with the initial questioning process. “People got stumped on the ‘are you able to work?’ question and they put ‘no’ because of the government shutdown, well then the unemployment office looks at that as you were not able to work physically, mentally or emotionally.”
If a person makes a mistake on the initial questioning, they are then able to contact MichiganWorks! within 24 hours to have those answers corrected before having to attempt contact with the UIA.
The MichiganWorks! office is able to file claims for those who are unable to get their claim processed by the UIA. If anyone is struggling to file their claim, contact the MichiganWorks! office and they will work with you and will be able to file your claim for you. While their office buildings still remain closed to the public, they are able to set up conference calls with individuals, themselves, and the UIA to clear up any issues or confusion.
For further information, or for inquires on unemployment filing, call the local MichiganWorks! office at 989-426-8571. They are available to answer phone calls from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with the exception of 12 p.m. until 1 p.m. when the office closes for lunch.