Michigan Unemployment Benefits Explained
The State of Michigan is facing tough times. With rising unemployment and the often complex unemployment benefits system, mistakes are being made and workers are wrongfully being denied their unemployment benefit payments. With new developments in unemployment laws and the federal stimulus package, unemployment benefits in Michigan are worth more than ever. For some beneficiaries, benefits can reach 72 weeks and nearly $30,000.
If an initial claim for unemployment benefits is denied, it is important for an unemployed worker to understand why they were denied, and what they can do to request a re-determination or appeal to protect their rights and get a proper and just determination. This article addresses the basic framework and is intended to help the Michigan unemployment applicant understand the process. In difficult situations, experienced legal representation may be essential.
The Unemployment Application Process in Michigan
During their first week of unemployment, unemployed workers are asked to visit the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agencys website at: http://www.michigan.gov/uia, the website is available to file new unemployment claims Monday Saturday from 7am to 7pm. There is also a telephone option: 1-866-500-0017. Unless instructed otherwise by Unemployment Agency staff, applicants must register within two to three business days at their local Michigan Works! Agency to upload a resume to the Michigan Talent Bank.
First time applicants will receive in the mail the following items:
–A determination showing the amount of weekly benefits and the number of weeks they may receive based on the wages earned.
–A booklet with detailed information about their rights and responsibilities for unemployment benefits.
–If there is an eligibility issue with their claim, they will receive a separate notice.
The unemployment claim process starts with an initial determination by the Unemployment Agency as to whether the applicant is eligible. Provided the applicant was fully employed in an eligible job, the agencys determination is based on two questions: whether the separation from employment was voluntary and, if not, whether the employment termination was based on misconduct. The initial determination is a first look and is not often without mistakes.
Unfortunately, mistakes in the initial unemployment determination are common. The most common mistakes involve inappropriate assumptions about a resignation or overreaching claims of misconduct in employer challenges. Often, employers challenge the benefits based on general performance issues or tardiness, issues not considered to be misconduct under the unemployment law. Misconduct under the employment laws is meant to be a limited category related to outright theft, misrepresentation or workplace drunkenness, not generalized performance issues.
When it comes to voluntary termination of employment, mistakes are often based on assumptions when employees resign just to protect their record, when in fact, many employees resign only involuntarily and only because they have been told their job is ending. Such resignations are not voluntary under the Michigan unemployment laws and should not be used to deny benefits.
Basic Requirements for Michigan Unemployment Benefits
The Michigan unemployment agency looks at the unemployed workers earnings in the first four out of the past five completed calendar quarters to determine if they are eligible for benefit payments. If they do not qualify under the standard base period they will then be reexamined using the four most recent quarters called the alternate base period. There is one last section to determine qualifications that the unemployed worker will have to certify with the State of Michigan. According to the UIA website, To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be unemployed and able to, available for, and actively seeking suitable full-time work. Some may worry that if they left their previous employer by turning in a resignation that they would be exempt from unemployment benefits. Although initial unemployment determinations may result in a denial of benefits, the fact of a resignation should not result in a denial, if it is involuntary.
The Process for Unemployment Beneficiaries Explained
Once qualified with an approved claim, the unemployed worker must continually certify their unemployed status with the State of Michigan every other week. The unemployed worker is expected to report to the UIA through the use of the Internet or telephone using Michigans Automated Response Voice Interactive Network, (MARVIN). A scheduled MARVIN appointment is based on the last two digits of their Social Security number. To access MARVIN via the Internet, unemployment beneficiaries can visit http://www.michigan.gov/uia and select the UIA Online Services for Unemployed Workers link. A free UIA online account can be created. MARVIN can also be reached at 1-866-638-3993, to find out scheduled times, beneficiaries can visit http://www.michigan.gov/uia.
How Much Will Michigan Unemployment Beneficiaries Receive and How?
Once approved and certified, it is important to know how the UIA determines the amount of unemployment benefit payment and how to receive it. During the unemployment application process, the UIA will ask the unemployed workers to select a choice of payment through either a state issued debit card or direct deposit into their personal bank account. To determine the specific amount of benefit payments, the UIA staff multiplies the highest amount of wages paid in any base period quarter by 4.1%. For each dependant claimed, the UIA adds $6 per dependant up to five. Currently, the weekly benefit amount is capped at a maximum of $362.
To determine how many weeks of benefits are available to an unemployed worker, the UIA multiplies total base period wages by 43% and then divides that answer by a weekly benefit amount. The initial benefit cannot be less than 14 weeks or more than 26 weeks. However, many emergency changes to the process have resulted in a series of extensions for unemployment beneficiaries. For some, benefits may extend up to 72 weeks. The new federal stimulus package may also include subsidy for extended COBRA benefits for some beneficiaries.
Special Emergency Extensions Available to Michigans Unemployed Workers
In recent developments, the Federal Government has provided an extension of benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which includes a 20 week extension upon the initial state benefit period. The second part of the EUC is an additional 13 week extension upon that. In addition, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed an extension benefit for an additional 13 weeks as of February 13th, 2009. Therefore, the total of available weeks of unemployment benefits that unemployed workers may receive would equal 72 weeks. The unemployment agency is responsible for notifying those eligible for the extensions when they are approaching the end of their initial claim.
What to Do If Michigan Unemployment Benefits are Denied or Challenged
The Michigan unemployment process is complex and has many layers. The agencys first decision is called a determination. After that the employer or the employee has 30 days to challenge the determination and request a redetermination. If either side is not satisfied, they are given an additional amount of time to request an appeal, to be heard by an administrative law judge at the unemployment agency.
For both sides, the appeal will be the first chance to present evidence and take testimony. After the appeal, challenges may go on to a board of review and then to Michigans court system. The biggest mistake people make is to give up on the process too early or to allow deadlines to pass. Employees often lose their rights sometimes worth over $20,000 simply by missing the deadlines. Sometimes, employers succeed by making continuous challenges and waiting for the employee to give up.
Other times employees may lose because they did not prepare for the appeal, or they are not adequately represented when they get there. When it comes to an appeal, many employees lose because they are not prepared to give testimony at the hearing or they are not represented. Simple steps can be taken to protect unemployment appeal rights. Unemployment advocates are available free of charge through the agency and some private employment attorneys are willing represent individuals in the unemployment process for a flat fee. Whatever they do, beneficiaries should never let their unemployment agency deadlines lapse with out seeking qualified legal advice.