(WXYZ) — UPDATE: Those who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099-independent contractors and low-wage workers can begin applying for unemployment in Michigan starting Monday morning.
The application window will open at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 13.
Original story below
Michigan’s unemployment system has had a 4,000% increase in applications. Last week alone, more than 300,000 claims were filed, as hundreds of thousands of workers are forced out of their jobs because of the coronavirus.
While adding staff and website capacity is helping to ease the bottleneck at the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency for many, the self-employed sill have no way to even start the application process for benefits.
“It’s scary cause we don’t know when we’re going to open,” said Allison Wurster, a self-employed hair stylist from Novi.
She and other stylists rent a “chair” at the salon ‘Authentic Hair Design’ in Northville, which means they’re all self-employed. The coronavirus crisis forced Wurster and her fellow stylists out of work back in mid-March.
“There’s no possible way to keep a safe distance in front of someone because even just leaning over the shampoo bowl, you’re in someone’s face, while you are working,” said Wurster.
Normally self-employed people like Wurster would not be eligible for unemployment benefits. But thanks to the CARES Act passed by congress, she is now allowed to apply. Except so far in Michigan – she can’t. All self-employed and 1099 independent contractors are greeted by a message on the state’s website that tells them to check back later.
“There’s not even the form out there for us to fill out,” said Wurster.
Like so many others, Wurster also cannot get through to the state on the phone.
Wurster says her husband has been furloughed and they’re expecting their first baby in July. With no incomes, and now a cancelled baby shower thanks to covid19, Wurster is relying on that unemployment check to prepare for the baby and pay the mortgage.
“It’s a lot of emotion, it’s sad, it’s not what I expected my first pregnancy to be,” said Wurster.
“Now we’re building that system as fast as we can and we’ll bring all those people in,” said
Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Communications Director Jason Moon.
Moon says the state just received their eligibility guidance from the feds on how to create applications for self-employed workers, 1099 contractors, gig workers and low-wage earners. All of those workers should be able to apply in a few days, and the state will waive the 28 day deadline that normally applies (28 days from last date of work).
“We want to assure everyone who’s eligible for unemployment they will receive their benefits,” said Moon.
Moon also says the Unemployment Insurance Agency is adding staff and hours to better serve the flood of applicants caused by the coronavirus shutdowns.
“A typical week we might receive 5,000 unemployment claims. Last week alone it was more than 300,000. When the new numbers come out tomorrow it’s going to be even higher. So we’re well ahead of a 4,000% increase in comparison, so this is historical demand. We just appreciate everyone’s patience,” said Moon.
The Call Center will now be open from 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday, and 7am – 2pm on Saturday.
The Call Center had 130 staffers, they now have 300 staffers; by the end of the week they should have 500 staff on hand to help with calls.
Online Filing Schedule at Michigan.gov/UIA: Customers are encouraged to use off-peak times 8 p.m. – 8 a.m.
- Last names beginning with letters A-L: file claims on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z: file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
- Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
Call Center Filing Schedule for 866-500-0017:
- Last names beginning with letters A-L: call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z: call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Fridays between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturdays between 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. are open for anyone who could not file during their allotted days.
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Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.
See all of our Helping Each Other stories.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.