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Mid-Michigan unemployed workers frustrated over problems with state's unemployment online system

Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 11:51 PM EDT
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(03/31/2020) - People are trying to stay safe and isolated, but as these guidelines continue, many people are doing so without a job.

Governor Whitmer is increasing and expanding unemployment, but on Tuesday, the system got overloaded and crashed for a few hours. Thousands of Michiganders hoped to log in and apply, but instead, it left many feeling frustrated and hopeless.

If you've tried to call to file for unemployment, you'll hear a familiar message.

The automated system says, "We are experiencing heavy call volumes. The fastest way to apply for benefits is to hang up and file online at michigan.gov/uia."

It's a message thousands of Michigan workers are hearing every day amid the coronavirus pandemic: file online because it's fast, convenient, and available 24 hours a day.

On Tuesday morning, however, the state's online system was down for hours.

"It's pretty frustrating. I spent all day doing it trying to focus on entertaining the two kids, making sure that they're able to get some schoolwork done. Everything was just really, really hard," Bridget Mass of Burton said.

The unemployment agency has been aware of recent technical issues and is trying to ease strain on the system.

Last week, they released schedules for people to file for benefits based on the first letter of their last names.

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.

Bridget Mass says like others, she's still frustrated. She's a mother of two, and a third is on the way.

"It's nerve-wracking because you always expect to have the last month or two to be able to save up for that time that you're going to be off with the baby, and so not being able to save up for the money and be able to just be prepared as like you want to be is definitely a scary time," Mass said.

Another woman from Burton says she was able to file for unemployment, but it was a slow and stressful process.

Her best advice is to be patient and follow-through.

"Over time, it will eventually balance out and you won't have such an overwhelming system, but you just have to be persistent and stick with it."

Technicians repaired the system by 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

If you're looking to file, you can find the phone number and website in the "Related Links" section of this page.