FILE - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-10, which temporarily expands unemployment benefits eligibility for Michigan residents during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the order, announced early Monday afternoon and scheduled to sunset on Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m., unemployment benefits will be extended to workers “who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill,” according to the governor’s news release.

The order specifies that unemployment benefits will be extended from 20 weeks to 26 weeks; application eligibility will be increased from 14 days to 28 days; and in-person registration and work-search requirements will be suspended.

Unemployment benefits will include individuals who take take a leave of absence to care for a family member with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis or if the employee exhibits COVID-19 symptoms or has been in contact with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis during the past 14 days. Exemptions from the new rule's expansions are individuals already on sick leave or receiving disability benefits.

Additionally, unemployment benefits will be extended to “workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off,” as well as “first responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.”

According to the statement from the governor’s office: “While we work together to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we must do everything we can to help working families,” Whitmer said. “This executive order will provide immediate relief to those who can’t go to work, and who rely on their paycheck to put food on the table for themselves and their families. I urge everyone to make smart choices at this time, and to do everything in their power to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

“We know that many families are and will experience economic pain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Jeff Donofrio said in the press statement. “Our expansion of unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits is designed to help provide emergency support to Michigan’s working families."

The state is also seeking solutions for self-employed workers and independent contractors who traditionally do not have access to unemployment insurance.

Whitmer's order specifies that employers not be charged for employee benefits if unemployment occurs due to the governor's previous executive orders to close or limit business operations. Additionally, Whitmer has expanded Michigan's Work Share program, which encourages employers to "maintain operational productivity during declines in regular business activity" rather than laying off workers.  

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.