Michigan, like other states, offers unemployment benefits to workers who are currently out of work through no fault of their own. The state's unemployment insurance program is managed by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), which is part of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. This is the agency that accepts unemployment insurance (UI) claims and evaluates individual claimant eligibility. Workers in Michigan may also qualify for federal pandemic unemployment benefits.
Michigan State UI Benefits
Only workers who are out of a job through no fault of their own are eligible for UI benefits in the state of Michigan. This is also a requirement for UI benefits in most states. Claimants must meet other qualifications, including minimum earnings during the period the state designates as the claimant's base period.
The base period in Michigan is a 12-month period (four calendar quarters) in the claimant's recent work history. It is calculated to include the oldest four of the most recent five calendar quarters completed before the person filed the unemployment claim. A calendar quarter is defined as three consecutive months, like January through March, or October through December.
Michigan pays eligible workers unemployment benefits on a weekly basis. A qualified worker will get a weekly benefit payment equal to 4.1 percent of the wages the worker earned in the highest earning calendar quarter of their base year subject to a cap of $362, plus a supplement for dependents. The total base period earnings must be at least 20 times the amount of the state minimum wage during the base period. Other wage requirements also apply. The normal duration of Michigan state unemployment benefits is between 14 and 20 weeks depending on the total wages earned.
Federal Benefits Program
Generally, states determine UI eligibility within their borders and manage their unemployment benefits program, but in some circumstances, the federal government supplements the state program, as it did in 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic closed most businesses in the country and caused nonessential workers to be unemployed, the federal government stepped in.
In 2020, just after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It was intended to assist workers who lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic. This law allowed for expanded eligibility and also provided expanded supplemental unemployment benefits.
The initial CARES Act was passed in March 2020, and carried a supplemental payment provision giving $600 per week to unemployed persons in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. The CARES Act also added up to 13 weeks of supplemental unemployment benefits and extended UI eligibility for self-employed and gig workers under a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Extensions to Federal UI Programs
The federal UI supplemental benefits of $600 per week ended on July 31, 2020. From then through December 26, 2020, there were no supplemental federal payments. Congress then passed the Continued Assistance Act (CAA) to provide a $300 per week supplemental benefit in addition to state-provided benefits. This extension pushed the termination of the program to March 14, 2021. The supplemental payments were further extended through September 6, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
The CAA extended the benefit duration by 13 weeks. It was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but was amended to provide 24 additional weeks and extended through March 14, 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 further increased the total number of benefits weeks available to Michigan residents to a total of 64 weeks.
The federal law that extended UI benefits to self-employed and gig employees was set to expire on December 31, 2020. The CAA extended these PUA benefits until March 14, 2021, and they have been further extended by the American Rescue Plan of 2021 to September 6, 2021.
Michigan Unemployment Laws
Michiganders who find themselves out of a job can apply for unemployment insurance benefits from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). This agency determines a claimant's eligibility based on state laws, and eligibility for federal pandemic benefits based on federal law.
To apply for either state unemployment benefits or federal pandemic benefits, a worker must first file an unemployment claim with the UIA and demonstrate that they are eligible for unemployment benefits under the applicable laws.
Eligibility under Michigan state law requires that the worker:
- Is unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
- Is able to work, available to work and actively seeking employment.
- Earned wages in at least two of the four calendar quarters in their base year.
- Meets other wage requirements during their base period.
Fault Under Michigan UI Law
In Michigan, like every other state, eligibility for UI benefits turns on the reason a worker lost their job. If an employee is fired for fault or misdeeds, they will not be considered out of work due to no fault of their own, so they will be ineligible. But just because a worker is fired doesn't make them automatically ineligible. A worker in Michigan may still qualify for UI benefits if they were fired because they lacked the skills to perform the work. These would not qualify as misdeeds in Michigan for UI purposes.
A worker who quits a job in Michigan may remain eligible if they had good cause for quitting. that is, a work-related reason that would make an individual who really wants to remain employed leave their job. Quitting for good cause might include:
- Unsafe working conditions.
- Significant changes in the hiring agreement.
- Not getting paid or difficulty getting agreed-upon pay.
A worker who quits for a good personal reason usually doesn't qualify for UI, but they might in certain limited circumstances, like when a worker quits to move with their military spouse.
Federal Law Modifies Fault Rules
The federal legislation that created pandemic UI benefits modified state laws in terms of the reasons a worker can leave their job without becoming ineligible for UI. It added coronavirus-related reasons to the list. These include:
- Circumstances where a worker is ill with COVID-19.
- The worker was possibly exposed to the virus.
- A worker has been advised by a doctor to stay home so they are not exposed to the virus or won't expose others.
- A worker must stay home to care for someone with COVID-19.
- A worker has to care for a child at home because the child's school or child care center is closed due to coronavirus.
Minimum Income Requirements
Under Michigan law, an employee is eligible for unemployment coverage only if they earn a certain minimum amount of money during a standard base period. Michigan's standard base period is defined as four calendar quarters. Possible calendar quarters are January through March, April through June, July through September and October through December. Michigan calculates the five last calendar quarters completed before the worker filed a claim. The standard base period is the earliest four of these five quarters.
The state requires that, to be eligible for UI, an employee must have earned:
- Wages in a least two of the four quarters in the standard base period.
- At least $3,744 in at least one quarter.
- Wages in the total base period that are at least 150 percent of their highest quarter wages.
Michigan offers two other alternative base periods to an employee who does not meet the wage requirements based on the standard base period. The first is to use the four most recently completed calendar quarters as the base period. If the worker still doesn't qualify, the UIA may allow them to qualify for benefits using the Alternate Earnings Qualifier (AEQ), meaning that their total wages for the base period must equal at least 20 times the state average weekly wage. For 2020, the AEQ was $20,742.
A Michigan worker is not eligible for federal pandemic unemployment benefits unless they meet the financial qualifications for state benefits. That means that a failure to meet any of these earnings-based state requirements will disqualify the worker from both state and federal benefits.
Work Search Requirements
An out-of-work employee cannot get state unemployment benefits in Michigan unless they are available to work and actively seeking work. Anyone who is not ready to take a job or is not seeking a job will not get UI benefits. Ready to work means that the unemployed worker has no barriers, such as lack of childcare or lack of transportation, to taking a job right away if one is offered. The state generally requires that a worker getting UI register for work and visit a Michigan Works! Agency (MWA) service center, but these requirements were temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandemic Unemployment Modifications
Federal pandemic legislation has modified the available-to-work requirement of Michigan UI law in certain situations. Under the CARES Act, a worker is not required to seek work if they are ill from COVID-19, caring for someone who has COVID-19 or taking care of minor children because schools are closed. If they have been ordered not to leave the house by their doctor or by government order, they can also continue to collect UI without looking for a job.
Calculating Michigan Benefit Amounts
A worker's UI benefit in Michigan is calculated by using the wages in the calendar quarter of their base year in which they earned the most money. The UIA multiplies this by 4.1 percent to come up with the benefit amount, which must be equal to, or less than, the maximum of $362 per week. The more a worker earns in the highest calendar quarter of the base period, the higher their weekly benefit.
The second test looks at all of the wages a worker earned during their base period. This amount must be at least 37 times the amount of the worker's state UI benefit. The federal pandemic legislation offers a worker approved for state UI benefits an additional $300 a week in supplemental pandemic UI benefits.
In Michigan, UI benefits are available for up to a maximum of 20 weeks, depending on the worker's earnings in the base period. The agency multiplies the total base period wages by 43 percent, then divides by the worker's weekly benefit amount. The maximum number of benefit weeks is 20, and the minimum number 14. However, the CARES Act and other federal laws have extended the duration of benefits to 66 weeks. That provision is effective through September 6, 2021.
FAQs and Answers
Q: How do I apply for UI benefits in Michigan?
A: A claimant can apply for UI benefits in Michigan either by telephone or online. Directions to apply can be found at the website of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Anyone applying will need to have personal information and work information, including:
- Last employer's business name and address.
- Dates of recent employment.
- Number of hours worked and pay rate.
- Amount of wages.
- SSN or Alien Registration Number if not a U.S. citizen or national.
Q: How much money will I get every week in UI benefits in Michigan?
A: A worker who qualifies for UI benefits in Michigan will get a weekly benefits payment by direct deposit or debit card. The amount of the payment is determined by a formula: the wages in the highest-earning calendar quarter in their base year multiplied by 4.1 percent. The maximum benefit is $362. Add to this the $300 weekly benefit from the federal pandemic legislation, which lasts through September 6, 2021.
Q: For how many weeks can I get benefits?
A: Under Michigan state law, an unemployed person who qualifies for UI benefits can get their weekly benefit for up to 20 weeks. However, this time period has been extended by federal pandemic unemployment legislation to a maximum of 64 weeks of benefits.
Q: Can a self-employed worker or a gig worker get unemployment benefits in Michigan?
A: Under state law, only employees are entitled to UI benefits in Michigan. The program is funded by an unemployment insurance tax on employers, and only employees of participating employers are eligible. However, eligibility was expanded to include self-employed persons and gig workers under the federal CARES Act. The law is set to expire on September 6, 2021.
- Michigan: Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
- Investopedia: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
- Investopedia: American Rescue Plan (Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package)
- Nolo: Unemployment in Michigan
- Michigan: Eligibility Requirements
- Michigan Talent: Talent Connect
- Michigan: How Do I File a Claim?
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.