Next week, the state unemployment agency should start distributing the first $300 in additional weekly aid to jobless Michiganders. The money is part of additional federal COVID-19 relief.
Steve Gray is the director the Unemployment Insurance Agency. He appeared before a special joint legislative committee reviewing the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gray expects the additional money will last for a three to five weeks.
“They have a pot of money and as long as it's there, they’ll pay out the money,” says Gray. “And so it depends on what states take advantage of it. It seems like most states will take advantage of it.”
Gray says, since the money is coming from FEMA’s budget, future funding will also depends on if the federal emergency management agency needs funds for hurricanes or other disasters.
Roughly one million Michiganders are currently receiving unemployment benefits.
The state of Michigan has paid out $22 billion in unemployment benefits to more than two million Michiganders since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in mid-March.
“The UIA has processed more claims since the start of the pandemic, about 2.6 million, than the agency did in the previous six years combined,” says Gray.
Gray admits there a still problems with the online forms people must fill out to qualify for jobless benefits. But he says the agency is better prepared if the state sees a resurgence in COVID-19 that may force more businesses to idle workers.