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Back in early spring, Khristan Yates worked as a quality assurance analyst at a marketing company and loved her job. "I had one of the best jobs of my career," recalls Yates, 31, a resident of Chicago.

Yates, who's a mother of two children, had moved into a bigger apartment just before the pandemic hit because she wanted to give her kids more space. At the time, she felt like she was "at the top of her world."

But as the economic effects of the pandemic hit the marketing industry among others, she lost her job in May.

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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.

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has directed Michigan's unemployment insurance agency to apply for federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week to boost state benefits. 

The benefit is coming from FEMA's $44 billion disaster relief fund.

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Today on Stateside, Senate Republicans have developed a proposal for COVID stimulus that would, most notably, reduce unemployment benefits from the federal government from $600 a week to $200 a week. We talk about the pushback and potential consequences. Plus, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. Will fine dining survive?

Dan kildee
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The clock is ticking on federal unemployment benefits. While states provide most of the money, the federal government has been kicking in $600 extra in monthly payments. 

Senate Republicans have developed a proposal for COVID stimulus that would, most notably, reduce the federal unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200 a week. Democrats in the House say that's a non starter. Represntative Dan Kildee, Democrat representing Michigan's 5th congressional district joined Stateside to discuss the proposals. 

Unemployment office sign
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The state of Michigan says it has met an internal goal to clear out a serious backlog of claims that were filed between March 15 and May 1.

The state's Unemployment Insurance Agency is dealing with a historically high number of people filing for benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession. The agency is also dealing with large numbers of fraudsters using stolen identification to file false claims.

$100 bills
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Michiganders waiting months on state unemployment claims should soon have an answer.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency is pledging to process the remaining nearly 12,000 claims filed before May 1 by July 4.

unemployement insurance form on a clipboard
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The state unemployment agency says the number of people waiting to have claims processed is growing. The agency says the backlog is largely due to suspected instances of fraud.

As the COVID-19 crisis has spurred furloughs and layoffs, complaints from people waiting for their jobless benefits have grown.

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Michigan’s unemployment rate remains high, but it’s getting better.

The state’s May unemployment rate was 21.8%.  That’s down 2.8 percentage points from the previous month. Construction, transportation and utilities sectors saw job increases last month.

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Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Legislators grilled the head of the Unemployment Insurance Agency about why some people still are not receiving benefits. Steve Gray, director of the agency, gave a short presentation about how it is dealing with the 1.7 million applications for benefits that have been filed since March 15.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Some Democratic state lawmakers and activists say now is the time to permanently extend and expand unemployment benefits in Michigan.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a million Michiganders have applied for unemployment benefits. The state is expanding jobless benefits during the pandemic.

But State Representative Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) says the COVID-19 crisis revealed problems with the current system.

“It just really puts the microscope on how our unemployment insurance agency is now structured,” says Sabo.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday that Michigan factories will soon be allowed to resume operations. This is good news for the thousands of auto workers who will now be brought back on the line. But as we've heard this week, it's not a simple process. There are two equally critical aspects of reopening the economy—public health and financial stability.

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Today on Stateside, we check in on Michigan’s farm scene and see how food producers are doing amid the pandemic. Plus, how the state unemployment office is handling a huge surge in the number of people applying for benefits.

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Starting Monday, Michiganders who are self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors and other low income workers who’ve lost work because of COVID-19 can apply for special unemployment benefits.

More than 800,000 Michiganders have applied for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state in mid-March. But people who are self-employed and some low income workers have faced obstacles.

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Applications for unemployment in Michigan took another huge jump last week. 384,844 people filed first-time claims. The U.S. Department of Labor’s newly released report revised numbers for the previous week, indicating more than 304,000 Michiganders filed for unemployment during that period.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Last week, Congress passed the CARES act, a $2 trillion stimulus package intended to provide relief to communities and workers impacted by the new coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to that bill, Governor Gretchen Whitmer was able to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, 1099 independent contractors, and gig and low-wage workers.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Nearly 130,000 Michiganders filed claims for unemployment insurance last week, dwarfing the amount of claims in the state at the peak of the great recession.

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Today on Stateside, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered most of the state to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But what does that mean for those who don't have a home? We hear about the challenges facing the state's homeless shelters. Plus, a new documentary tracks the history of what is probably Michigan’s most famous alternative high school, sometimes cheekily referred to as "Commie High." 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The unemployment rate is rising because people are losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are new jobs opening up.

Retailers Wal-Mart and Amazon are looking for temporary workers. Fast food delivery services are hiring. Some pharmacies and medical supply companies need workers. Big chain supermarkets need people to keep the shelves stocked. In some cases small businesses are hiring too.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s jobless rate is hanging below 4 percent.

Michigan’s November unemployment rate remained unchanged from the previous month at 3.9 percent.  The nation’s jobless rate was also flat last month.

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Michigan's unemployment rate in January was unchanged from the 4.7 percent rate recorded in December.

Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan's January jobless rate was six-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.1 percent, but three-tenths of a percentage point below the state's January 2016 rate of 5 percent.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The economy is booming and the unemployment rates for the nation and Michigan are low. In Detroit, the official rate has fallen dramatically since peaking at more than 28% in 2009.

But the rate that’s often cited only tells part of the story.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s unemployment rate ticked up last month.

The number of people with jobs increased in Michigan in November (up 11,000).   But so did the number of people without jobs  (up 6,000).

The result of an expanding workforce is a one-tenth of one percent increase in the state jobless rate to 4.6%.

It’s the fourth straight monthly increase.  However, last month’s unemployment rate was still a half percentage point lower than November 2016.

Post-Labor Day worries

Sep 5, 2017
Worker at the Flint Engine plant.
Steve Fecht / General Motors

If you talk to someone in Governor Snyder’s administration, you might get the impression that Michigan’s workforce had a lot to celebrate on Labor Day. Last month, unemployment fell to an astounding 3.7%. Frankly, I never thought during the Great Recession that I would ever live to see our state’s jobless rate fall below four percent again.

woman carrying bags on factory floor
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Governor Rick Snyder recently signed into law a package of bills collectively dubbed “Good Jobs for Michigan.”

It’s a tax incentive intended to reward businesses that hire large numbers of Michigan employees. But it’s not exactly clear what qualifies as a “good job" under the new law. 

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Michigan’s unemployment rate fell a half percentage point in May.

Michigan’s jobless rate fell to its lowest level last month since December of 2000 to 4.2%.  

“These numbers should encourage all Michiganders to continue to work hard and keep our foot on the gas,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a written statement. “We are moving forward on a great path toward our future.  The state's continued commitment to workforce development along with the lowest unemployment rate our state has seen in nearly 17 years proves that.”

Justice statue
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Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency has settled a lawsuit over an automated claims processing system that falsely accused tens of thousands of people of fraud.

Between October 2013 and August 2015, the system kicked out more than 50,000 potential fraud cases. An initial state review of those cases found a 93% error rate. 

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the United Auto Workers union, Sugar Law Center and several individuals accused of fraud was dismissed Thursday under an agreement between the state and the plaintiffs.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A state official who's conducting a wide-ranging review of Michigan's embattled unemployment benefits office is apologizing for the fiasco that led at least 20,000 people to be falsely accused of fraud.

Talent Investment Agency Director Wanda Stokes adds that lawmakers should consider reducing the country's highest financial penalties for unemployment fraud.

She told The Associated Press that people affected are angry and she is, too. She says their plight "shouldn't have happened."

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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Thousands in Michigan were wrongfully accused of unemployment fraud through the state's automated claims system. Now, the director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency has been reassigned.

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about the long road to get things back in order at the UIA. They also talk about Gov. Snyder's emergency declaration in Macomb County and U.S. attorney Patrick Miles Jr.'s decision to step down from his post in Michigan's Western District.


Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
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The director of Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency has been reassigned after at least 20,000 people were wrongly accused of fraud by the agency's automated system.

Talent Investment Agency Director Wanda Stokes said Thursday that UIA Director Sharon Moffett-Massey will now work on special projects.

Bruce Noll, TIA's legislative liaison, will serve as acting assistant director of the unemployment agency during a search for a new director to replace Moffett-Massey.

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