The Michigan unemployment update today covers several topics. The Work share program helps small businesses in Michigan. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting thousands of Michigan residents. The Overpayment of unemployment benefits program may affect you. And last but not least, overpayments of regular and unemployment benefits are on the rise. Learn more about the recent changes in the state’s unemployment benefits laws. Today’s Michigan unemployment update is a good time to get started!
The Work Share program is a new state benefit that helps employers keep skilled employees on the payroll while reducing the number of hours they must work. This new program is approved for up to 52 weeks and is applicable to almost any type of business. Businesses can use this program to avoid having to lay off workers and save money by avoiding the costs of recruitment. The Work Share program allows businesses to cut hours and wages, and it waives the requirement that employers be in business for more than three months.
In the past, few employers in Michigan had used the work-sharing program. This is because there was some “legal limbo” between the federal and state unemployment systems. In addition, some unemployment agencies process more claims from one company than another. In Michigan, however, more than 700 companies are now participating in the program. The program helps small businesses by keeping employees on payroll and helping them receive partial unemployment insurance to make up for the reduced hours.
The Work Share program helps employers save money on payroll costs by allowing them to reduce employee hours and still make the same salary. Under the CARES Act, workers participating in the Work Share program will receive a maximum of $600 a week despite how many hours they work. And because the program is federally funded, it is expected to remain in place through 2020. A recent executive order expanded the Work Share program eligibility criteria, making more workplaces eligible.
According to the CARES Act, a third of the eligible workers in Michigan participate in the WorkShare program. This is great news for the state’s economy, as it enables businesses to reopen their doors with greater flexibility while employees collect unemployment benefits. Because unemployment benefits in Michigan are only $362 a week, the WorkShare program can provide an employee with a higher salary than what they would normally receive from the unemployment insurance.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow in size, more people are facing the risk of contracting the disease. In Michigan, the number of confirmed cases each day has fallen to just over a thousand, down from over 17,000 in mid-January. The number of COVID-19 cases per week has also decreased, from an average of over 7,600 in mid-January to an average of less than 6,500 last week. The number of deaths from the virus has risen to 57, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. As the vaccination campaign ramps up, more Michigan residents are becoming susceptible to COVID-19.
A new program to provide free COVID tests to Michiganders on Medicare Part B will allow beneficiaries to get up to eight tests for COVID each month. Those in need of free tests may visit any participating pharmacy that accepts Medicare cards. This new program is part of a larger Biden administration initiative to increase access to COVID testing to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent report indicated that the number of positive COVID-19 tests has increased in the last 10 days. In the last two days, 5.1 percent of recorded tests for COVID-19 were positive.
The CDC has issued a new recommendation for COVID-19 pandemic protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorized 16 Michigan counties as “high” or “medium” risk, which means that everyone in the state should wear a mask indoors. This recommendation applies to most of southeast Michigan, with Detroit, Wayne County, and Oakland County seeing the highest number of cases and hospitalizations.
Thousands of people are left without a job in Michigan due to overpayments of unemployment benefits. Overpayments of unemployment benefits in Michigan are caused by miscommunication and error from the UIA, which distributed over $39 billion in unemployment benefits. If you are in Michigan and have received an overpayment, you do not have to pay it back. UIA will notify you if you qualify for a waiver. You can sign up for a free online application to receive information about your overpayment.
While the Michigan Department of Workforce Development waives these payments for good faith applicants, it does not do much for the thousands of people who have not been paid. In some cases, people have received letters demanding the money back after receiving a cutoff date that occurred more than two years ago. These letters often did not tell them the reason for the overpayment, leaving them waiting for nearly two years to receive their money. Overpayments of unemployment benefits in Michigan can be devastating, but they are necessary to help people get back on their feet.
The agency has agreed to waive up to $431 million of overpayments in Michigan, an amount that exceeds four billion dollars. This means that more than 400,000 people in Michigan will not have to pay back their overpayments. In addition to the waivers, the state is also reviewing eligibility criteria to determine how long the state will continue to waive overpayments. While no information about the number of people affected by the problem has been released, the agency issued 350,000 waivers last July to help Michiganders who received an overpayment during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency announced that it would temporarily pause collections of overpayments of unemployment benefits in Michigan. The move will protect Michiganders by not intercepting their state tax refunds or threatening to garnish their wages. Additionally, the pause will continue until May 7, when the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency will review the cases. The pause will continue for overpayments made before the CARES Act took effect.
Overpayments of regular UI benefits
The state has issued a guidance letter to claimants overpayments of regular UI benefits in Michigan, after hundreds of thousands of residents received overpayment notices. The overpayments stem from a federal program that increased weekly benefit amounts and expanded benefits for people who wouldn’t have otherwise qualified. Additionally, eligibility criteria changed over the course of the pandemic, and mistakes were made by state unemployment insurance agencies and claimants.
The Michigan Department of Workforce Development has a process to clear overpayments of regular UI benefits, but the new process doesn’t help thousands of Michiganders who owe overpaid benefits. Many Michiganders’ benefits were cut short due to erroneous determinations, and others were denied due to health reasons. While some claimants are still waiting for overpaid benefits nearly two years after being cut off, others are able to apply for a waiver based on the state’s new rules and simplified rules.
Some people are fighting back against the overpayments. Marie Hosep, an IT professional who was laid off in 2020, is among those who have been contacted by UIA and told that she owes $6,790 in overpaid benefits. Even though she’s not one of the five thousand Michiganders included in the latest waivers, she continues to call state legislators and the UIA to fight the issue.
Fortunately, overpayments of regular UI benefits in Michigan are common. While it’s unfortunate that some people were overpaid benefits, they can recover these payments by paying back the money. However, the good news is that the government will attempt to recover overpaid benefits in a way that is fair for claimants. Aside from the penalties that come with overpayments, claimants will have to repay the money owed to the state.
Impact of imposter fraud
The recent unemployment update in Michigan shows a large amount of fraudulent claims paid out. Michigan lost $8.5 billion to suspected imposter fraud, including nearly $2.8 billion in fraudulent claims. The state also lost nearly $5 billion to intentional misrepresentation cases. A recent audit found that nearly $3.9 billion was improperly paid to people who did not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, the agency says that it is confident that some of these fraudulent cases are unintentional.
Fraudulent payments from Michigan’s unemployment insurance agency are a major cause of this update. Since March 2020, the agency has paid out nearly $39 billion to Michigan residents. Fraud losses accounted for about 20% of pandemic payments. In response to the fraud problem, Michigan’s governors issued a report highlighting improved fraud detection practices. The state also made its pandemic-era Unemployment Insurance Fraud Response Team permanent, where it coordinates prevention efforts.
The Department of Labor has notified employers about the fraud, and has also dispatched letters to individuals who have filed false claims. Imposter claims, as the name suggests, are fraudulent and are often filed by individuals using stolen or fraudulent personal information. This trend stems from the expansion of unemployment benefits available under the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which has led to an increase in criminal activity.
The UIA’s unemployment program has been hit hard by the recent coronavirus outbreak, and its staff is struggling to cope. The UIA blamed the problem on a slow computer system and inadequate staffing. The errors were discovered after some individuals had already spent their unemployment money and were unable to meet repayment demands. The senator who represents West Michigan hopes to have Gray testify before the Joint Select Committee after the November election.