Michiganders struggling with laborless Labor Day amid COVID-19 pandemic | Michigan Radio

Michiganders struggling with laborless Labor Day amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 7, 2020

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s a laborless Labor Day for many Michiganders as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shutter businesses across the state.

The spectre of a second spike in cases has many concerned about another spike in unemployment claims.

If there's another spike in jobless claims tied to COVID-19, the head of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency says his department will be ready.

Director Steve Gray testified last week before a special joint legislative committee on the state's response to the coronavirus.

Gray says his agency has made three to four years' worth of changes to their system in the past five months.  He says it’s now better prepared to handle a high volume of jobless claims.

“Given what we’ve gone through and what the staff have gone through over the past five months, we are definitely going to be much better prepared,” says Gray.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency was criticized early on in the pandemic for a backlog of a historically high number of people filed for benefits. 

Since March, Michigan has paid $22 billion in unemployment benefits to more than two million people.  Roughly a million Michiganders are still receiving jobless benefits.