Michigan Legislature Continues COVID-19 Unemployment Benefit Expansion

By Alexis F. Johnson posted 10-19-2020 12:49


The Michigan Legislature acted quickly to vote in new legislation putting temporary pandemic measures in place for Michigan’s unemployment system following the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating a number of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. On October 14, 2020, the Michigan Legislature approved more than a dozen bills related to COVID-19, including SB 886, which received unanimous support from both the house and senate. The bill provides much needed relief for both employees and employers affected by COVID-19-related employment issues by temporarily amending the Michigan Employment Security Act in the following important ways:

Unemployment Arising from COVID-19

SB 886 extends the amount of unemployment insurance available for COVID-19-related job loss from 20 weeks to 26 weeks, which is the same amount of time previously allowed under the governor’s executive order.

The bill also provides that unemployment benefit payments will not be assessed against an employer’s unemployment insurance account but instead against a nonchargeable account.

SB 886 states that an individual will be considered to have left work involuntarily for medical reasons if he or she left the workforce to self-isolate or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 because he or she was immunocompromised, among other reasons. The bill also provides that individuals who work as independent contractors are eligible for benefits as of March 15, 2020, as they were under the executive order.

Work Share Program Requirements Loosened

The bill waives certain requirements for employers seeking approval of work-share plans from the Unemployment Insurance Agency concerning reports, payments, account reserves, payment of wages, and hiring assurances during COVID-19. The employer must certify that the work-share plan is in lieu of layoffs that would affect at least 15 percent of the employees in the affected unit. Under the bill, that figure would be 10 percent.

Importantly, the bill does not expressly waive the actively-searching-for-work requirement, which suggests that claimants will still need to prove they are looking for a job to get paid. The expected unemployment provisions are set to remain in effect through December 31, 2020.