On October 20, 2020, Michigan Senate Bill 886 was signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The bill extends the expansion of unemployment benefits for Michigan workers from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Extended Benefits are now available for claims established on or before December 31, 2020, on which date the extended benefits provision expires.
The Michigan legislature passed the bipartisan legislation, which is now Public Act No. 229, following the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling on October 2, 2020, that the governor lacked the authority, after April 30, 2020, to issue or renew COVID-19-related executive orders under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. The new law, with certain exceptions noted below, largely reflects the now invalidated Executive Order 2020-76, which provided for temporary expansions in unemployment eligibility.
Public Act No. 229 provides that:
- The maximum unemployment benefit period is extended from 20 weeks to 26 weeks;
- Certain eligibility requirements for an individual to receive benefits would not apply if COVID-19 prevents the individual from meeting the requirements;
- Benefits are to be charged to the employer’s “non-chargeable” account when a worker is laid off due to COVID-19, meaning that the employer’s experience rating is not affected by the cost of extended benefits;
- Workers may receive benefits during time off work due to a COVID-19-related cause.
Public Act No. 229, in contrast to Executive Order 2020-76, does not waive the requirement that an unemployed worker must be “seeking work” to be eligible for benefits. Thus, except in certain circumstances, claimants will need to prove they are actively searching for a job to receive benefits. The requirement that a claimant seek work to receive benefits can be waived if either (i) the employer notifies the Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) that the layoff is temporary and that work is expected to be available in a declared number of days, not to exceed 45 days, following the last day the laid-off individual worked, or (ii) the UIA finds that suitable work is unavailable both in the locality where the individual resides and in those localities in which the individual has earned wages during or after the base period.
Another way in which Public Act No. 229 deviates from Executive Order 2020-76 is that it requires the UIA to review the claimant’s job history for the 18-month period preceding the claim filing date. Any disqualification identified during that period would prevent the extension of benefits. Executive Order 2020-76 had waived that requirement, requiring the UIA only to only consider a claimant’s most recent job. In a statement issued in conjunction with signing the bill into law, the governor’s office called the 18-month look-back period “a waste of resources because employers are not being directly charged for benefits paid at this time.”
If you have any questions about how this new law affects your business, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.
This alert serves as a general summary, and does not constitute legal guidance. All statements made in this article should be verified by counsel retained specifically for that purpose. Please contact us with any specific questions.
We have created a response team to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the law and guidance that follows, so we will continue to post any new developments. You can view our COVID-19 Response Page and additional resources by following the link here. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.
Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Dave Houston has over 40 years of experience representing employers in planning, counseling, and litigating virtually all employment claims and disputes including labor relations (NLRB and MERC), wage and overtime, and employment discrimination, and negotiation of union contracts. He has authored numerous publications regarding employment issues. You can reach him at 517.377.0855 or email@example.com.