Q&A: Michigan unemployment agency answers questions on several issues

Michigan has seen record unemployment numbers due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

DETROIT – Are you still having issues with unemployment in Michigan?

Help Me Hank held a live Q&A with a director from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency on Friday on the Local 4 Facebook page.

Steve Gray, director of the UIA, said technical issues have been resolved, but some are still getting locked out of their accounts. “There’s a little form that will be presented that you can fill out, and we’ve got a team dedicated to those issues,” Gary said.

The Help Me Hank team has been answering common unemployment questions for weeks, but many are still reporting issues filing or receiving payment.

Previous: Q&A: Michigan unemployment agency answers questions about issues applying for benefits

“We’ve quadrupled the amount of [staff], and we’ve put them either on the phones or to address the technical issues,” Gray said. “Even with that, the majority of people who are calling us are going to get a busy signal.”

Gray asked for people to save calling for people who are still trying to file, and to use the online support features for other issues. Gray said more than 1 million have received payments.

Here are some of the questions we asked Steve Gary, UIA director:

I was approved. Why haven’t I been paid yet?

“If you haven’t been paid yet, and you’ve done everything you need to do, we’re working to get you paid," Gray said. “Just keep checking the website to see if we’ve whether or not we’ve been able to get through it.”

Gray said the UIA team is working around the clock to address claims.

Gray said your best option is to send a web message though the system, but he said it takes days to get through those messages.

“We’re gonna get you paid, but unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do at this point to make it go faster.”

What does “additional claim required” mean?

There can be several circumstances which your claim will close. If you later need to resume filing for unemployment benefits, you cannot just continue to certify, you have to reopen your claim (file an additional claim).

Check under your “view all claims” or “determinations” tab in your MiWAM account for an alert.

Some examples of why a claim will stop: If a claimant is in certification status and then stops because they have returned to work; if they have several waived weeks in a row; if they have weeks in which their earnings are in excess of 1.5 times their weekly benefit amount.

If the issue continues after your next certification, contact UIA by sending a message through your MiWAM account or by calling 866-500-0017.

How long will it take to receive my unemployment money?

It all depends, but typically, it will take between 17 and 21 days before you see a payment.

If UIA needs to do further investigation, the process could be delayed. That’s why it’s essential to double check everything you submit for accuracy.

Can I work part-time while collecting unemployment?

Yes, but your gross wages cannot exceed 1.5 times the weekly benefit if you still want to collect unemployment.

What if I filed for unemployment but haven’t heard a response?

Be patient. That might not be what you want to hear, but sometimes no news is good news.

Remember, it can take around three weeks before the money will be deposited. If UIA needs more information from you, you will be contacted.

What does “open non-monetary issue” mean?

Typically, a non-monetary issue means that the claimant certification was accepted but is not yet payable because there’s an issue that needs to be reviewed first. When there is an issue, a situation, or condition that affects the claimant’s benefits rights, the UIA must investigate. This is called a non-monetary issue.

For those claims with open non-monetary issues, it generally takes about two weeks from the time the issue is detected to determine whether a claimant qualifies for benefits. Because of the high volume of claims as a result of COVID-19, it could take longer. Keep in mind that this is average and that each case has its own specific set of circumstances.

Once the review or investigation concerning your eligibility for benefits is complete, you will be notified in your MiWAM account.

Continue to certify bi-weekly while you wait for our team to review the issues with you claim.

How can I get through on the phones or online?

As of Monday, UIA has heard from more than 1.3 million Michiganders looking for assistance.

More employees were hired to take calls and the server has been beefed up. The website is still the best bet, though. Saturday traffic is slow, as is the early morning.

If I file for unemployment insurance benefits, when will it become effective and when will I receive my first check?

Although circumstances may vary, individuals should expect their first payment about three weeks after they file their claim. Subsequent payments are released every two weeks after the individual certifies. The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19.

Claimants must certify (report) every two weeks that they are eligible for benefits. After the first certification (which is done during the third week of unemployment) they will receive their payment in about 7-10 days. Certification can be done using a person’s MIWAM account and/or by phone by MARVIN.

How long does it take for an account to update after speaking with a representative?

There is no definitive answer here. This all depends on the situation. Some issues take longer to resolve than others. Keep an eye on your MiWAM account for updates.

What does “disqualified week” mean?

If you are disqualified you may lose some or all of your benefits. The most common reasons have to do with the reason you were separated from your job.

A Determination regarding your eligibility for benefits was made. To read the Notice of Determination letter in MiWAM, go to the Determination Status tab and click on the blue 'Letter ID' link to the left.

To submit your protest/appeal in MiWAM, click on the blue ‘File Protest/Appeal’ link on the far right and type an explanation of the reason(s) why you disagree with the decision. To protect your rights to benefits during the protest period, please continue to certify biweekly through MiWAM online or MARVIN by phone during your scheduled certification week until you have returned to full-time work.

UIA has an extensive list of FAQs right here.

About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.