Unemployment Processing Issues Frustrate Michiganders

State official Jeff Donofrio answers listener questions about filing for unemployment on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.

Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson has been hosting hour-long specials on 101.9 WDET where local experts answer listener questions on COVID-19.

For this special, Afton Branche, Jeff Donofrio and Marick Masters joined Detroit Today to answer questions from tweets, email and call-ins.

Click on the player above to hear answers to listener questions on filing for unemployment, and read some select answers, edited for length and clarity, below.


  • Afton Branche, Strategic project manager at the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions
  • Jeff Donofrio, Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
  • Marick Masters, Interim Chair of the Department of Finance at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business

Economists say Michigan is now at depression-level unemployment. One million people are now jobless.

To help residents, Congress passed a stimulus package and expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed and gig economy workers, among others. That has meant an unprecedented surge of jobless claims and applications, which has challenged the state’s unemployment agency’s ability to handle that volume of claims.

When eligibility opened up for workers who were previously denied unemployment benefits, the state’s unemployment website malfunctioned under the weight of all of the people hoping to take advantage of the expanded benefits. 

As of April 17, 2020, the State of Michigan has paid out $823 million to 765,000 Michiganders, with about 300,000 more residents expected to receive benefits for the first time next week. 

Having an issue filing for unemployment? 

What is Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity doing amidst the overwhelming number of Michigan residents filing for unemployment?

  • Eviction and tax foreclosure moratoriums

  • Extended $20 million in small business support

  • Expanded workers’ compensation for first responders and healthcare workers

  • Increased departmental capacity by transferring state employees from other departments to take calls for unemployment and re-trained department staff to handle new customer claims and complaints.

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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.