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Michigan unemployment claims up 550% over typical week, state says

A State of Michigan debit card for unemployment benefits.
A State of Michigan debit card for unemployment benefits. (WDIV-TV)

Unemployment filings spiked in Michigan a week after local businesses laid off staff in response to mass social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to a U.S. Dept. of Labor embargo on weekly claim data, we are unable to provide daily updates on the number of claims filed,” wrote Erica Quealy, communications manager for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, to ClickOnDetroit. “We can confirm that the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is currently experiencing an average 550% increase in claims compared to normal anticipated activity this time of year.”

The massive jump in unemployment filings follows a national trend brought on by a wave of event cancellations and wide-scale social distancing keeping people in their homes. NBC News reported unemployment websites across the U.S. crashed on Tuesday as people filed claims for benefits.

While the overall impact on the economy is yet to be calculated, the federal government is moving quickly to send people checks to ease loss of jobs and income. Many people and families are going to need it.

Just this week, 48,000 people in Ohio alone filed unemployment claims in two days, according to Slate.com. The article notes the layoffs are hardly a surprise given recent events: “The entire leisure and hospitality sector, which employs 16.9 million people, or about 10 percent of the entire labor force, is going into hibernation, as Americans avoid bars, restaurants, and travel, and states and cities begin to order establishments closed.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended unemployment benefits last week to people staying home from work to care for children or loved ones who become ill, workers who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised without benefits, and to first-responders who are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.

The state is also extending benefits from 20 to 26 weeks and increasing the time to apply from 14 to 28 days. Everyone in the state must apply online. Here’s a fact sheet on claiming unemployment benefits in Michigan.

Michigan unemployment benefits are determined by previous income and number of dependents. The maximum a resident can receive is $362 per week, according to Michigan Legal Help.

Related: How to file for unemployment in Michigan