Gov. Whitmer Addresses Unemployment Struggles During COVID-19 Pandemic
The virus is not the only crisis facing the state right now as hundreds of thousands of workers are already in the unemployment system.
Pre-COVID-19, in an average week, the unemployment system in Michigan would see 5,000 claims. Over 3 weeks that’s 15,000 claims. In the last three weeks of March, the state saw more than 850,000 claims, 54 times more than normal. The system never could keep help.
“We understand that this is frustrating and we want to help,” says Jeff Donofrio, director of Michigan Labor and Economic Development.
The state is facing an unemployment crisis, this week the millionth claim was made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Which means that over a quarter of our state’s workforce has filed for benefits,” says Donofrio.
The state has not been able to keep up. Just 600,000 workers have received their benefits, many not even able to get through to apply.
“We’re adding capacity. We’re increasing eligibility and benefits and we’re making sure that we work hard to provide that emergency relief,” says Donofrio.
The state is hiring more workers, taking claims for longer hours. The biggest unknown being when the crisis will die down.
“We, at the state level, are developing plans to safely phase in the reengagements of Michigan economy,” says Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The state knows the system can’t sustain this load forever.
“Flattening the curve of transmission,” says Donofrio, “Is the most important thing we can do to minimize the long-term economic damage.”