Unemployment benefits applications soar in Michigan amid COVID-19 outbreak; here's how to apply

Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 10:12:32-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s expansion of unemployment benefits was welcome and needed news for tens of thousands throughout Michigan already impacted by the spread of COVID-19.

Related: Whitmer expands unemployment benefits in Michigan during coronavirus outbreak

"We’re seeing an influx of individuals from the service industry, the entertainment industry, hospitality, some of the automotive companies are starting to lay off," Jennifer Llewellyn, the director of Oakland County MI Works, told us.

In just a three-day span this week, more than 55,000 people filed for unemployment, a 1,500% surge over the week before.

The expansion covers those who have to take care of kids or loved ones who’ve become ill, those who are sick, quarantined or immune-compromised and don’t have paid family leave or are laid off, and first responders in the public health community who are sick or quarantined.

Related: Michiganders unemployed due to COVID-19 may be eligible for collections assistance

"The maximum amount of weekly unemployment insurance benefits is $362 a week. The maximum number of weeks was just raised to 26 weeks. However, it’s based on each individual’s circumstances and their wages over the last year," Llewellyn added.

There are two ways to apply: either online at or by phone at (866) 500-0017. Wait times by phone are longer, so the state asks that you apply online instead. Still, you may end up waiting

"Many individuals are filing right now, so if they have a difficult time getting through or experience a lag in the website, I encourage them to please keep trying," she said.

Once you apply, here’s what you’ll need

  • Social security card
  • State issued driver’s license or ID
  • Names and addresses of employers you’ve worked for in the last 18 months
  • Quarterly income.

You’ll also need your employer’s Federal Employer ID Number – which can be found on a W-2—as well as their Employee Account Number.

"We expect that the number of individuals filing for unemployment benefits will grow this week and going into next week. Hopefully this is a temporary situation and folks will be back to work very soon," Llewellyn said.

The expanded unemployment benefits window will last until April 14.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

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.