'This is unbearable.' Metro Detroit workers waiting for state benefits need help promised by governor

Posted at 5:59 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 22:09:24-04

(WXYZ) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a new executive order that hopes to cut out some of the red tape that’s snarling unemployment claims.

This order will allow the state to only review your most recent job: the one that you got laid off from due to COVID19. That’s important because there are a lot of people who say they’re being penalized for past jobs that have nothing to do with the state’s stay-at-home order.

“This is unbearable,” said Rose McAdams, who has been without a paycheck since March 23, 2020. McAdams says that’s when she got laid off from her job at a Novi law office.

“I have two car notes that are due right now, I have an insurance payment that’s two weeks past due, with another one due next week; the light bill, I’m just barely making rent. That’s all I can do,” said the 47-year-old from Inkster.

McAdams says she was approved for unemployment benefits, but says she still hasn’t been paid because of an old job she quit long before the law firm gig.

“I guess by me separating from them, it’s holding up my unemployment,” said McAdams. She said it doesn’t seem fair because that job separation had nothing to do with the layoffs sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The same thing happened to Dallyn Maresco. Her bosses at a Jimmy John’s restaurant approved unemployment for the 25-year-old from Clinton Township because she had to care for her elderly grandfather during the pandemic. At first the state said yes, she was approved. Then Maresco got a letter in the mail.

“It said you have been denied for monetary determination, and that you are no longer getting unemployment due to the job that I had six months ago, basically stating that I had quit it,” said Maresco.

On Wednesday night, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a new Executive Order, telling the state to only review someone’s most recent job that they lost due to the pandemic. The new order is expected to expedite benefits. It’s also expected to quickly resolve tens of thousands of alerts on unemployment accounts known as “non-monetary issues.”

Maresco is still skeptical, because so far, communication with the state has been impossible

“It’s just a very frustrating system, and overall, I would just like to talk to somebody who can give me answers,” said Maresco.

“I’ve called them over 1000 times. I’ve chatted with them, but it keeps telling me the chat is down,” said McAdams. “I’m here with no one, no help. It’s very hard, I just need them to push this issue through and get me the funds that are owed to me.”

The Governor’s order is retroactive until March 16, 2020. Michigan’s unemployment claims are unprecedented, due to the COVID19 pandemic. From March 15 through May 2, Michigan has seen 1,331,565 total initial claims.

7 Action News asked the state Unemployment Insurance Agency again why applicants still cannot get in touch with people to help them. Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Communications Director Jason Moon gave us this statement:

“We extended call center times and continue to add capacity, resources and staff.

Our normal UIA call center staff is 130 people. By March 30, we more than doubled our capacity to 300 people, and by April 6 we had 500 people dedicated to the call center.

Now, more than 650 UIA employees are dedicated to answering questions over the phone and through the website.

We have also focused on process and technology improvements. Working closely with DTMB, we added survey capacity and developed technology tools built into the online system that connects to a team of more than 250 individuals who can resolve locked passwords and other technical problems with customer accounts.

We continue to urge Michiganders to reserve the call center for those who need it to speak with someone directly. Many questions can be answered through our FAQs and video tutorial library at [].

We understand the frustration that a number of Michiganders have experienced with the unemployment system as we continue to process claims during this historic demand. We are working around the clock to continue to provide this emergency financial assistance to our workers that deserve it most. We assure all eligible workers who file for unemployment that they will receive every dollar they are entitled to.”

Here is the language in Whitmer’s new executive order regarding penalties for previous jobs:

Strict compliance with subsection (c) of section 32 of the Employment Security Act, MCL 421.32(c), is temporarily suspended as follows: in determining an individual’s nonmonetary eligibility to qualify for benefits, the Unemployment Insurance Agency shall not issue a determination with respect to an individual’s separation from a base period employer other than the separating employer, and the individual shall not be required to have satisfied the requirements of subsections (2) and (3) of section 29 of the Employment Security Act, MCL 421.29, as it relates to base period employer separations other than the most recent separation from the separating employer.

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