Unemployment agency encourages people seeking benefits to file online at night

Michigan's unemployment agency has been inundated with filings over the past couple weeks.
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LANSING (WJRT) (3/25/2020) - Michigan's unemployment system is inundated with people filing for benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving some unable to get through.

State officials say the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is dealing with "tremendous call volume" and some callers are getting a busy signal. The agency's website also is operating slowly at times.

Thousands of workers were laid off due to coronavirus containment measures keeping people at home. Last week, more than 107,000 people filed for unemployment, which is a massive increase over the 1,500 who seek benefits on a typical March week.

“While an unprecedented number of calls and clicks has challenged the system, particularly during peak hours, we want to assure Michiganders that the system is providing emergency financial relief,” said UIA Director Steve Gray.

He is urging people seeking unemployment benefits to be patient. Gray recommends the website at michigan.gov/uia as the first stop for filings, because online filings remain faster than over the phone.

He also encouraged users to try applying during off peak hours between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., when traffic on the website is lower and it operates faster.

Gray acknowledged loading times on certain pages of the website may take several minutes for some people. Clicking more than once won't make the site move faster, Gray said.

He pointed out Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order last week extending the unemployment eligibility time frame from 14 to 28 days, so everyone has two extra weeks to submit a claim.

“The UIA is shifting as many resources as possible to handle the increase in applications and is exploring further solutions to help Michiganders get the assistance they need as soon as possible," Gray said. "We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time.”