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Gov. Whitmer passes executive order to expand unemployment benefits amid business closures across Michigan due to COVID-19

A CDC laboratory test kit for infection with coronavirus. The kit was found to be flawed, but a replacement has not yet been distributed (photo courtesy The Tribune).

In an effort to suppress the financial strain of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-9 ordering the closure of restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, etc., she has signed a new order for the temporary expansion of eligibility for unemployment benefits.

This went into effect immediately and goes through Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m. 

Executive Order 2020-10 includes unemployment benefits for people who have “unanticipated family care responsibility” for reasons such as school closures or for individuals required to leave work to care sick relatives and loved ones.

Additionally, this order covers those who do not have paid family and medical leave or time off who have become “sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised.” 

First responders who have fallen ill or are in quarantine due to exposure of COVID-19 are also included under this order. 

 “While we work together to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we must do everything we can to help working families,” Whitmer stated in a release. “This executive order will provide immediate relief to those who can’t go to work, and who rely on their paycheck to put food on the table for themselves and their families. I urge everyone to make smart choices at this time, and to do everything in their power to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.” 

Jeff Donofrio, Michigan Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, stated that the expansion of unemployment is designed to  “provide emergency support to Michigan’s working families.” 

According to the release, the state is looking for ways to support self-employed and independent contractors who “traditionally do not have access to unemployment insurance.” 

  • Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks. 
  • The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days 
  • The normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.  

The release encourages employers to “implement the program that permits employers to maintain operational productivity during declines in regular business activity instead of laying off workers.”

Whitmer has called for President Donald Trump to issue a Major Disaster Declaration so that assistance would be provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).