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Michigan's unemployment system completely overwhelmed, governor says

 The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. (WJRT)
Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 2:55 PM EDT
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(4/2/2020) - Nearly 500,000 people in Michigan filing for unemployment have completely overwhelmed the system, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

Her administration is working on solutions to jammed phone lines and slow loading times on the online filing system, she said. But she didn't announce any specific improvements in remarks Thursday morning.

“Our system has been able to stand up to the increased demand, but it does need increased support and we’re working on that,” Whitmer said.

The Associated Press is reporting that a record 311,000 people in Michigan filed for unemployment benefits last week, which is more than double the 128,000 who filed claims the week before.

The previous weekly record for new unemployment filings in Michigan was 77,000 during the 2009 Great Recession.

Michigan's unemployment system crashed entirely for a few hours Tuesday. Whitmer said many other states across the country are experiencing similar problems with their deluged unemployment filing systems.

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The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is relieving unemployment applicants of some requirements, such as a letter from their employer detailing why they are out of job.

“Keep attempting to get that application in, but know what we understand the incredible strain on the system, the incredible number of people impacted and we’re going to work to make sure that people get the unemployment (benefits) that they need to get through this crisis,” Whitmer said.

Laid off workers have an expanded 28 days from the date they last worked to seek unemployment benefits. Payments are backdated to the date of each worker's last day of employment.

The state has developed a schedule for people to file based on the first letter of their last name to ease strain on the system.

The schedule for filing online is:

-- Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for anyone with a last name starting with letters A to L.

-- Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for anyone with a last name starting with letters M to Z.

-- Saturdays for anyone who could not file on one of their allotted days.

The schedule to file by phone at 1-866-500-0017 is:

-- Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for anyone with a last name starting with letters A to L.

-- Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for anyone with a last name starting with letters M to Z.

-- Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for anyone who could not file on one of their allotted days.

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