Michigan forces 700,000 to re-qualify for unemployment benefits: What to know

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The deadline is this weekend for nearly 700,000 people in Michigan to once again validate their eligibility for federal unemployment benefits paid to them since April 2020.

They learned in a recent letter from the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency that eligibility criteria has been changed, in some cases more than a year after payments were made.

UIA plans to review all of the cases, determining for each individual whether there’s been an overpayment. Restitution could be due.

The situation has the attention of lawmakers, who plan to call UIA officials in front of the House Oversight Committee when the Legislature resumes sessions in the fall, Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday.

Many lawmakers already have spent months helping constituents who’ve struggled to apply for and receive jobless benefits. At least 3.35 million Michigan residents applied for unemployment pay since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Irwin said he’s considered that many people “will just ignore the letter because it’s so Byzantine.” The complexity of the message, he said, could create further problems as “people are having to check boxes and jump through hoops.”

Here are some things to know if you received the letter:

Log into your account and follow the full instructions to the best of your ability.

The new reason you choose for unemployment eligibility may seem similar to the old reason that the state now says is invalid. That’s OK, if that remains your reason.

Each week that you have re-certified under a now-invalid set of criteria may need to be addressed. Follow the instructions until the system says you are done.

The state will be reviewing each account. If you do not answer the questions, the state will do it for you.

Make note of all of the appeals deadlines so that you can file one if you find out that the state says you owe restitution.

Watch for information about what qualifies for a waiver and what process the state will follow.

The state does offer some phone appointments and office appointments. If you think you’ll need to speak with someone at the agency about your case, consider booking an appointment now.

Irwin said he believes the state is signaling a willingness to help people with waivers if UIA determines they should have been paid after the recertification process.

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