Pandemic UI Part-Time Recipients Could Have Eligibility Evals Waived
June 8, 2021
Residents who were receiving benefits while working part-time under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program would have their evaluation-of-eligibility submissions to the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) disregarded under a bill discussed this week.
“This bill seeks to fix what I think is an unintended snag that some of our residents and our (UIA) have run into,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin on his SB 0445 during Thursday’s Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee meeting.
Under PUA — the temporary federal program using dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — individuals who were self-employed, certain independent contractors or part-time workers could qualify for benefits starting March 1, 2020 — while also following a federal clause mandating they be “otherwise eligible under state law,” Irwin explained.
“Michigan has particularly aggressive laws and paperwork around unemployment and unlike other states, we have a rule that says that you must weekly go on to your MiWAM account and certify that you are able and available for full-time work,” Irwin said.
He illustrated a hole where constituents know they qualify for their PUA assistance — whether it be having to drop work hours to care for children during the COVID-19 pandemic or being limited by a disability — but when asked by the UIA if they’re available for full-time work, they answer “no, I’m a part-time worker.”
“So they would answer that question wrong. Essentially, they could have legally said that they were able and available and those were the magic words that UIA wanted them to say, but they didn’t say it because they were honest people,” he said. “Then they get pulled into this cycle where either they were denied benefits or the agency is now going back after them.”
Under the Michigan Employment Security Act, eligibility is attached to a recipient’s ability to have their suitability evaluated at the UIA’s call. From there, the individual’s openness to full-time work could determine if they’ll be earning their next round of benefits.
The legislation would ensure all claims filed after March 1, 2020 would be waived of this assessment as long as they were made to receive CARES Act funds.
Although the co-sponsors of the bill are mostly Democrats, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) additionally has his name listed beneath SB 0445.
Senate Economic and Small Business Development Chair Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) said he intended to have the bill voted on in committee next week, with organizations like the Michigan Association for Justice and the Michigan Poverty Law Program supporting it.
“My bill basically says for the period of the PUA eligibility from the beginning of the pandemic until the end of federal unemployment, that the Michigan state law requirement that you must certify that you’re able and available for full-time work is abrogated,” Irwin said.
He said through it, the UIA would no longer have to engage time and effort into going after those PUA-eligible residents.
In other UIA news, the agency announced Friday it’s reintroducing a call-in schedule to assist all claimants who certify their eligibility for benefits by phone, with the idea to ease incoming call flow and prevent extended wait times while reporting work search activity by phone. The UIA reinstated work search requirements effective May 30.