Impacts of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt in communities across the state.
An abrupt halt to daily life has left many without work and without a consistent paycheck for the foreseeable future.
“You’re going to get through. You’re going to get paid. Our system, behind the scenes, is working well.” — Steve Gray, Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency
With no clear end in sight, state and federal lawmakers have expanded unemployment benefits to stem the losses.
So when can Michiganders expect a check and who exactly is eligible for unemployment benefits?
Listen: All of Your Unemployment Insurance Questions Answered
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) sponsored the provision that expanded unemployment benefits as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.
He says it expands unemployment eligibility dramatically.
Under the new expansion, Peters says people will be getting their normal unemployment, that can range from $150 to $350 a week, as well as an additional $600 a week.
He says that small business loan forgiveness provisions have also been added to provide additional assistance to those who apply for 7(a) SBA loans.
“It was important to get more money into the hands of folks, both to make sure they felt taken care of in the short-run, but also to get the economy running.” — Sen. Gary Peters
Senator Peters says this is to help individuals make ends meet, but to also keep the economy afloat.
“You can’t just push a pause button and then push it again at some point in the future and expect it to just start running again,” says Peters.
Greg Reyner, co-owner of Cafe Muse in Royal Oak and a partner at Marrow in Detroit, says his business has taken a big hit since the pandemic forced restaurants to shutter.
“We’re down 95%. We had to basically lay off all of our employees. It’s just very hard.” — Greg Reyner, restaurant owner
He says that his partner attempted to apply for unemployment benefits online but was unsuccessful and is stuck in limbo until changes are made to the system to reflect the new expansion.
Reyner, like many small business owners, is in a race against the clock.
“If it drags out another one or two months, who knows? A lot of us won’t be around anymore,” says Reyner.
Steve Gray, director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, says that he understands people are frustrated with not being able to get through to file for unemployment. He asks that those who have access to internet to file online in order to free up the phone lines for those without internet access.
“You’re going to get through. You’re going to get paid. Our system, behind the scenes, is working well,” says Gray.
For those worried about their unemployment benefits having ran up last year, Gray says, “If you currently have a benefit year in effect, you’d be eligible for the additional six weeks and then the 13-week extension on top of that.”
Gray also adds that many individuals, including gig workers, will be eligible for pandemic assistance. For those individuals, Gray says hold off on applying as the agency awaits direction from the federal government.
Detroit Today associate producer Clare Brennan wrote this article.