Advance Notice: Briefs

Unemployed need to file online for benefits during outbreak. Here’s how.

By: - March 18, 2020 2:49 pm

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency office, Lansing | Susan J. Demas

To slow the spread of COVID-19, the Unemployment Insurance Agency, starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, is closing its statewide lobbies to the public, except for customers with appointments, and asking people to use UIA online resources for unemployment assistance.

“Michigan is doing all it can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We are asking residents to protect their health by not going into group settings unless necessary,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “Limiting public visits to our UIA lobbies and eliminating in-person registration and work search requirements are critical steps in this emergency.”

At the time of publication, the state has 80 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, but health officials believe the number is actually higher. The first person in Michigan died of complications due to COVID-19 early Wednesday morning in Wayne County.

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On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits, and suspended requirements for in-person registration and work search requirements to provide some relief during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the governor’s executive order, unemployment benefits would be extended to: 

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill. 
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Access to benefits for unemployed workers will also be extended. Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks, the application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days and the in-person registration and work search requirements are suspended. 

A fact sheet for claiming unemployment benefits in Michigan during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here.

UIA offices are encouraging eligible employees to apply for unemployment benefits online at or by calling 1-866-500-0017. 

UIA online resources include:

  • File a claim for unemployment benefits
  • Talk with a customer service agent (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Message a customer service agent outside of normal hours (weekdays after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. and weekends)
  • Manage your account 24/7

Michigan Works! Agencies are also urging workers to avoid visiting their statewide offices during the pandemic. Michigan Works! resources can be found at or by calling 1-800-285-WORKS.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.