Answering unemployment questions for the 1.3 million jobless Michigan residents

On Sunday during a segment of Let it Rip Weekend, FOX 2 talked with Rachael Kohl of the University of Michigan. She directs the Law School's Workers' Rights Clinic and has all the answers to your unemployment questions.

With more than a million workers jobless in Michigan, there's certainly a lot of questions to ask.

Below is a list of questions that Kohl offered answers to. If you have other questions that aren't answered here, you can email them to

Question 1: What does it mean when I see a "Non-monetary issue" notice show up?

The agency has to review per the law every single separation that you have from any of your employers during the last 18 months. This is how the Michigan legislature wrote the law and you have to review all of those separations and if one of those is disqualifying, you could potentially not get state benefits.

For example here, Jamie worked job A and didn’t like it and so Jamie quit. Jamie didn't apply for unemployment benefits because he quit, then Jamie works job B but is now laid off. Jamie could be disqualified, not because of just Job B even though that is causing his unemployment. Jamie is disqualified because of job A.

The governor actually just signed an executive order this week that the agency doesn’t have to review all of those other prior separations right now, they just have to review the most current one that’s causing the unemployment. That should help to hopefully get those non-monetary issues reviewed faster by the agency because now they don't have to review everybody's answers.

Question 2: I finally got into the system and then the computer says "Additional claim required." What does that mean?

That could mean a lot of different things. So there's a lot of different rules part of the statute that makes the agency have to review every possible reason that you could be eligible and qualified because they want to make sure they are paying out benefits to people that are eligible and qualified. If you’re seeing "Additional claim required," it could be that you have been denied state benefits and you actually should file for a Pandemic Unemployment Federal Assistance or it’s also possible that if you had an open benefit year, you filed earlier like potentially sometime within the last year, and your benefit weeks are now exhausted and so you potentially have to open up a new claim there.

The best way to know what to do here is to look in your Determinations Tab and see if there’s been any determination that the agency has made and if there hasn’t been a determination yet, then you're going to have to wait for the agency to go in and look at it because they are behind. That has to do with the fact there 1.3 million people applying for benefits in Michigan right now and they have the same staff as they did last year and they're trying to train new staff but last year they had 300,000 claims for the entire year and the same staff are trying to process 1.3 million claims.

Question 3: What does "disqualification week" mean?

So that is similar to some of the other issues that we’re talking about. These are all in the same vein of issues that the agency has to review. Disqualification usually has to do with separation from employment, which means scenarios like "Were you laid off?" "Did you quit?" "Were you fired?" and they have to review that. It might be showing up as a disqualification week, but until it’s in your determination tab, there’s no way for you to know in order to take the next step.

So it might be flagged by a computer that this is an issue, so a human has to go in and say whether or not it was an issue, and then in your determination's tab, there will be something that says why you're disqualified or ineligible. You have 30 days to protest or appeal that.

Question 4: Callers keep saying they call and they can't get through. What can they do?

So, again remember it’s important that the agency is processing 1.3 million claims right now and on average they’re getting about 150,000 calls a day. Even if they put all the staff on the phones, they wouldn’t be able to answer all the calls and the reason you’re having all these other issues like a "non-monetary eligibility" questions, "additional claims required" questions or "disqualification" questions is because a human has to go in and look at what the computer has flagged and so remember that all states are in the same boat right now.

Michigan is actually ahead of most states with the number of people that they have paid out. Michigan is also one of the first states that actually rolled out the federal assistance programs. Ohio and Illinois still don’t have these programs rolled out and they’re not being paid out yet. So if you're getting any benefits right now, know that we’re actually ahead, even though it doesn’t feel like we’re ahead and so really the best thing to do is to put that message in the MiWAM account and wait. They'll get to it. The more that you put into the account, the more backed up it's going to get. The more that you call, the more backed up the agency is going to get.

The reason you're not getting that call back is the same person is calling 1,000 times on the same day, so that really puts a log into the system. The only reason you should call is if you have an issue logging in or you still haven't been able to file for benefits.

Question 5: What does "In Progress" mean?

In progress just means that a human is reviewing it. It's in there, it's next up in their queue. So you should get an answer on either paying the benefits or a decision against you which you need to appeal and you have to appeal timely, which is within 30 days it has to be received by the agency.

Question 6: What does "locked out" mean?

So if you’re having a hard time logging into the system, that’s one of the only times you should call because either something went wrong with your password, or potentially there’s just something wrong and you need an administrator to come in and reset your account. That's one of the times you do have to call. You can also click on "forgot password" and that will send a message to IT.

Question 7: What if my social security number and birthday don't match according to staff with the unemployment office?

It could mean a couple of different things. It could mean that you have another account with another Michigan State service like the Secretary of State's office and for some reason, the accounts just aren't matching. It could be that there was an error creating the account and information was inputted incorrectly or you might actually be a victim of identity theft. But this is one of those times also when you do have to call.

Question 8: If I'm on unemployment, but my boss wants me to come back to work but I'm afraid, do I have to return to work?

The answer is it depends. You have to be reasonable and your employer has to be reasonable. But also another thing that a lot of employers are having to realize right now is that they’re going to bring people back slowly. They're not necessarily going to bring people back at full-time like they used to have them and so if you are getting reduced hours, you could potentially get under-employment.

Also, employers should look into the workshare program. This allows the employers to keep and retain their workforce - they're not gonna be charged for using it. Also, claimants can continue to get under-employment benefits to pay the offset of what they would’ve been earning had they returned full-time. If you’re afraid to go back to work, you have to look at everyone’s individual circumstances. Tell your employer why and see if there is something you can work out to make you feel safe.

You have to be reasonable, that’s what the judge is going to look at is whether or not you were reasonable, whether or not the employer was also reasonable.