Michigan governor signs bill retroactively waiving able and available to work requirements for pandemic unemployment aid

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a bill on Feb. 28 allowing part-time workers who applied for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to keep their benefits. The law may also allow certain workers who were initially denied pandemic unemployment benefits due to part-time work or inability to work to claim retroactive benefits through appeal to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission.

Federal PUA benefits were designed to assist workers who did not qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits, such as gig workers, self-employed workers, and part-time workers. Until Whitmer signed the Feb. 28 bill, Michigan’s unemployment insurance law conflicted with the federal law and did not allow part-time workers to claim unemployment insurance benefits. The state required claimants to be able and available to work full time.

Due to the conflict, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency requested repayment of benefits from some part-time workers (and from workers who were not available to work for pandemic-related reasons, such as caretaking) who attested to their ability and availability to work full time. The state also refused to pay benefits to some claimants who worked part-time and marked they were not able or available to work full time.

The law will allow part-time workers to keep benefits they were paid. It may also allow for retroactive payments to claimants who were denied benefits because they were not full time workers.

Unemployment insurance refers to a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

For more information on Michigan’s unemployment insurance program, click here. For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.

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