As unemployment claims surge, state fights to meet demand

Posted at 5:01 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 19:43:50-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — With a record-setting number of state unemployment claims submitted in the last two weeks, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency is struggling to meet a surging demand.

Angie Berger was laid off from Ford Motor Company on March 18 after two of her colleagues on the assembly line tested positive for COVID-19.

Ford submitted her unemployment claim with the state, but until Berger can log in to her account through the state’s website, she won’t receive any of the benefit.

“If I don’t have my password, I can’t go in there to answer my questions and process a claim,” Berger said. “The longer this takes, the longer I go without money.”

For nearly two weeks, Berger says she’s called the UIA office phone number at (866) 500-0017, but never got through.

“This morning I tried to call. It was about 150 times I tried,” she said. “It just says the phone lines are busy, they can’t take our call and then they hang up on you.”

Scores of 7 Action News viewers have told us the same story, with most of you struggling to get through by phone, and some striking out online.

“We’ve had over 400,000 claims in the last two weeks,” said Steve Gray, director of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, “which is more than we took in all of 2019.”

Gray says most people struggling to make a claim either don’t have internet access or can’t log-on to the state’s website. As a result, they’re flooding the state’s phone banks where, on just one day last week, the state received more than 60,000 calls.

“If we’re looking at 64,000 callers a day, we could have 1,000 people (to answer the lines) and we’d never be able to get all of those,” he said.

If you can’t access the state’s website and you have reach out by phone, the state is asking the everyone last names that begin with A-L to call on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Last names starting with M-Z should call on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you still can’t get through, try Friday or Saturday.

For those who have internet access but can’t log in to their account, the state asks that you send an e-mail at The state will contact you directly.

Even if you’re delayed in filing your claim, the state says you won’t lose out on any benefits as unemployment claims will be backdated to the day you lost your job.