Getting Unemployment Benefits: Your Rights & Responsibilities

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To get unemployment benefits, you must first apply for them from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). Read Applying for Unemployment to learn more about applying.

You must continue to qualify for unemployment benefits to keep getting them. You must also continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Read Overview of Unemployment Benefits to learn more about qualifying and eligibility. To stay eligible and qualified for unemployment, there are certain things you must do.

Read the Unemployment Booklet

After you got your determination, you should have gotten the Unemployment Benefits Booklet. It has information about your rights and responsibilities when you’re getting unemployment. It is very important to read the booklet carefully. The UIA expects applicants to read this booklet.

Certify Your Benefits

After you apply for benefits, you need to answer certain questions about your earnings and report your work search activities. This is called “certifying your benefits.” You need to certify your benefits every two weeks to receive them. 

Report Your Work Search

You need to look for work while you get benefits. You must complete at least one work search activity each week and submit a detailed record of the activities you have completed every two weeks. Some examples of work search activities include:

  • Submitting applications
  • Contacting employers
  • Checking resources at employment offices
  • Checking job listings on Michigan Works! or MiTalent Connect
  • Attending job fairs or employment workshops

Your benefits will not be paid until you report your work search history. You can report online or by phone.

Reporting online

You can claim your benefits using the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM). To learn how to use MiWAM, you can use the MiWAM toolkit. You can log on MiWAM 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Reporting by phone

You can also report by telephone to Michigan’s Automated Response Voice Interactive Network (MARVIN) at (866) 638-3993. MARVIN is available Monday through Friday, between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm. In order to use MARVIN, you will need to create a secret four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Your certification day and time are based on the last two digits of your social security number. Look at page 11 in the Unemployment Benefits Booklet for your assigned day and time. There are also make-up times available.

Answer Questions Truthfully

When you report, you will be asked a series of questions. Those questions are listed in the Unemployment Benefits Booklet. Your answers may disqualify you from getting benefits. Answer honestly and accurately; not doing so can lead to your benefits being suspended and even charges of fraud. Below are some important questions you will be asked, along with information on how you should answer them.

Were you able to work full-time and available for full-time work?

Answer “Yes” to this question if you were able and available to work during the entire period. Answer “No” if you were not able to work full time during the week. This may mean your benefits are reduced for this week. How much your benefits are reduced depends on how many days you were not able to work. If you don’t answer honestly, you could face fraud penalties.

Were you seeking work?

Answer “Yes” to this question if you met all the job search and registration requirements during the period. To learn more about the requirements, read the “Register for Work” section below and the Applying for Unemployment article.

Did you have any earnings, vacation pay, holiday pay, severance pay, bonus pay, or other wage continuation pay?

Answer “Yes” if you earned any pay during the period. You must report all your income when you claim benefits.

Report your income in the week you earn it, even if you have not been paid yet. Reporting weeks are scheduled from Sunday until Saturday. Report any work you did for pay during the period. Report any other income, too, such as pension or retirement benefits, holiday pay, vacation pay, and severance pay.

If you don’t report all your income, the UIA may decide you have committed fraud. This can lead to severe penalties and fines. Keep track of your income. Even an honest mistake can trigger a fraud accusation.

If You Don’t Report

If you do not report when you are supposed to, and you do not have good cause (a good reason) for not reporting, you will not be paid for those weeks. If you have good cause for the late report, you could get up to 14 more days to report. Here are some examples of good cause for not reporting:

  • A family death

  • Attendance at a funeral

  • Working

  • Relying on a promise of work

  • Incapacity of either the unemployed worker or a dependent

  • A storm that makes it impossible to call or connect on the Internet

Other circumstances might also qualify as good cause.

If you do not report when you are supposed to (or the make-up days), you must call a customer service representative at (866) 500-0017. The Agency will issue a determination stating which weeks, if any, cannot be paid and when your payment will resume.

Avoid Fraud Accusations

Fraud is an intentional misrepresentation. If you hide or misrepresent any eligibility information that can affect your benefits, the UIA might decide you’ve committed fraud. If the numbers you report don’t match the numbers your employer reports, the UIA might decide you’ve committed fraud. The UIA will send you a determination that says you have committed intentional misrepresentation if it thinks you’ve committed fraud.

If you get a determination that says you have intentionally misrepresented information to the UIA, it may include information about the money you have to repay. The UIA may report you to the Michigan Attorney General’s office for criminal prosecution and investigation. If you are found to have committed fraud, you may have to repay four times as much you got in unemployment benefits.

If you disagree with the determination, you can protest the determination. The UIA must receive your protest within 30 days of when it mailed or sent the determination. You may want to speak with a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal services office in your area.

Respond to UIA Requests 

The UIA might ask you for information through the mail, through MiWAM, or by telephone. If the UIA asks you for information, respond within 10 days. If you do not respond within 10 days, you may lose your benefits and be charged with fraud.

The UIA may ask you to appear at a specific location to determine your eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you get a notice, appear. If you do not go, you may be found ineligible for benefits.

Keep copies of documents you submit to the UIA. Keep a record of dates and times you have contacted the UIA. Get the names of any people you talk to on the phone.

Keep Your Contact Information Current 

Tell the UIA if your address or phone number changes. If the UIA can’t reach you by mail or phone, you are considered unavailable for work. If you are unavailable for work, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Tell all the employers listed on your claim if your contact information changes. If an employer listed on your claim can’t contact you about an offer to return to work, you are considered unavailable for work. If you are unavailable for work, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Accept Job Offers

You are allowed up to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits. During the first ten weeks you get benefits, you must accept any suitable work offer related to past work experience and training if it pays at least 70% of what your last job paid.

After you have collected benefits for ten weeks, you must apply for and accept work outside of your past work experience and training if the job meets all of the following:

  • The offered pay is at least 120% of your weekly benefit amount

  • The offered pay is at least the average wage for similar work in the area

  • The offered work pays at least the state minimum hour wage 

If you do not accept suitable work, and the UIA is told about the work offer, you may be found ineligible for benefits. Whether a job is considered suitable is based on a number of factors including:

  • Any risk to your health, safety, or morals
  • The need for physical fitness or training to do the work
  • How long you have been unemployed
  • The likelihood that you will find other suitable employment in the area
  • How far the job is from your home
  • Your past work experience and wages

Read What is Suitable Work? on the UIA website, to learn more about what is suitable work.

You might be able to keep getting unemployment benefits while you’re working part-time. Your benefits will be reduced in the weeks you have income from your part-time job.

Respond to Overpayment of Benefits Notice

The UIA is responsible for collecting overpayments of unemployment benefits. If you were overpaid benefits and you are currently employed, contact the UIA Benefit Overpayment Collection unit at 1-800-638-6372 to arrange repayment. Interest accumulates very quickly on unemployment overpayments.

If you become unemployed and get unemployment benefits, 50 percent (or 100 percent if fraud was involved in the original overpayment) of your weekly unemployment benefit payment will be taken for repayment. If there was fraud involved in the original overpayment, all your benefit payments will be taken to repay the overpayment. There are other penalties for fraud, too.

If you don’t repay an overpayment, the UIA may:

  • Take your federal and/or Michigan income tax refund
  • Garnish your wages
  • Refer your case to the Department of the Attorney General for litigation
  • Place a lien on your real property
  • Garnish your bank account

When you’re working, interest accumulates very quickly on unemployment overpayments. You may want to repay the overpayment as quickly as possible.

Waving a Repayment

You may be able to get your repayment waived if the overpayment was not your fault and if requiring you to repay the benefits would be “contrary to equity and good conscience.” Your repayment could be waived if:

  • There was an administrative clerical error by the UIA in paying your benefits;
  • Your employer did not give timely wage and separation information and you made an honest mistake; or
  • You are suffering great financial hardship

Do You Need Legal Advice about your Unemployment Benefits?

If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.