COVID-19

State legislation would make it harder to qualify for unemployment during pandemic

Rules being considered in Lansing would extend unemployment time limit, but put in roadblocks to qualify.

The Michigan Senate has passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits to people put out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rules now being considered by the state House could wind up disqualifying many people.

The legislature is in a rush to extend unemployment benefits after the state Supreme Court struck down the governor’s emergency powers. One of the governor’s executive orders had expanded access to and timelines for unemployment payments.

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There are some stark differences between the governor’s order and the bill passed by the state Senate.

The governor’s executive order extended the amount of time someone could receive unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks and waived rules requiring people to prove they were looking for work.

The Senate’s bill keeps the same qualification timelines but would reinstate the job search requirement. The bill would also expand work history requirements.

The governor’s order only looked at the last job an unemployed person worked when considering whether someone qualified for benefits. The Senate bill would look at 18 months of a person’s work history. That could mean someone who quit a job during the last 18 months before applying could be disqualified even if they had been laid off from their most recent job.

The new bill comes at the same time as unemployment rates are rising and people are being laid off following months of furloughs. More than 428,000 Michiganders were unemployed as of August.