By now you’ve gotten multiple emails, probably messages in your MiWAM account, and possibly letters in the actual mail as well. Beginning May 30, 2021, claimants receiving unemployment benefits will be required to actively search for work and report at least one work search activity for each week they claim benefits. In short: No work search, no money.
But what does that mean?
With any luck at all this post will help you understand most of what’s going on. But I’m going to call attention to a very important fact:
If any information you receive directly from Michigan UIA contradicts something you read here, DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU.
I am no expert. I’m just trying to make it a little easier to figure out. If they tell you to do something different, do that instead… And then please let me know so I can correct the information here. No one wants you to be disqualified, no one wants you to have to pay money back, and certainly no one wants you to end up having to pay any fines or end up in a legal battle.
Pre-pandemic, there was always a work search rule but because we work through a union hiring hall we were given a waiver for it. During the COVID shutdown, everyone was given a waiver. But now things are opening back up and businesses are hurting for employees. The reasons for that are another discussion entirely, so I’ll just say those who are paying a decent wage (you know, like what we used to make doing shows) are having little to no trouble finding employees while those who pay considerably less are having a tougher time.
Simply being on the Local 26 referral list and available for work DOES NOT COUNT as a “work search activity.” Likewise, calling the office or sending a text to the call steward to see if there are any shows coming up does not count. Please do not do either of those things, it will only waste everyone’s time and you’ll be no further ahead. There is a way for Local 26 cardholders to avoid having to perform work search activities, but it does still require you to do something. That information is detailed below in the June 8 update.
What DOES count as a "work search activity"?
- Applying for a job, either in person or online
- Creating a profile or submitting a resume on a job search website (such as LinkedIn or Indeed)
- Participating in job search workshops or seminars, again either in person or online
IMPORTANT: You cannot use any single work search activity more than once in any given four-week period! If you apply for a job at Joe’s Market the first week of June, you cannot apply there again until the first week in July if you want the second application to count as a job search.
Also IMPORTANT: The second item on the list can only be used once per claim. If you create a resume on Indeed the first week in June, you cannot create another resume on Indeed EVER AGAIN under your current claim and have it count as a job search.
When you do a work search activity, you MUST document that you’ve done so. UIA can ask you for proof of your work search any time for up to two years, and if you are unable to prove you did the reported activity they can make you pay back any money you received, most likely with interest and/or penalties.
There is a PDF from the state detailing a long list of things that count as legitimate work search activities and how to document them. Please see Work Search Activities List
Once I‘ve applied for a job, do I have to accept it? Can I still collect unemployment if I don’t?
Short answer: Yes to the first, no to the second. If you apply for a job and are offered the position, you have to have a really good reason for turning it down.
According to Michigan UIA:
You must accept an offer of suitable work based on your skills, abilities, and other factors for your occupation such as the prevailing wage rate in your local labor market. If there are limited jobs in your occupation or geographical area, you may have to expand your work search. For example, you may have to consider looking for a job in a different field or location.
If you do not have good cause for refusing to accept an offer of suitable work, you will be disqualified for benefits and may be required to repay benefits you received.
When filling out an application, consider factors like whether or not the employer is union-friendly, how much per hour you would need to make to take the job, what days/hours you would be available to work there, and the company’s political leaning. Choose your answers accordingly.
How do I submit my work search activity?
If you certify online, you will be able to submit your work search activity for each week along with the other questions you normally answer. Be sure you include:
- The NAME and DATE of the activity as well as NAME and ADDRESS of whatever entity you contacted OR
- NAME and DATE of job fair or workshop you attended
- Regardless of which of those you do, you’ll need to say how the contact was made (in person, online, via email, etc.)
If you certify over the phone using MARVIN, you must REMAIN ON THE LINE after you answer all the normal questions until an agent comes on to take your work search information. What you need to tell them is slightly different:
- DATE of contact
- TYPE of activity (submitted application, job fair, workshop, etc.)
- NAME of whatever entity you contacted
- ADDRESS or URL of contact
- HOW contact was made
What if I forget to do a work search for the week?
Short answer: You don’t get paid for that week. Period.
A work search activity must be completed in each week that you are paid benefits. There is also no good cause given for failing to complete a work search activity. If you do not conduct a work search activity in a particular week, you will not be eligible for payment in that week. If you miss a work search activity in any week, it cannot be made up.
You’ve been waiting for this one… WHAT ABOUT A WAIVER SO I DON’T HAVE TO DO A WORK SEARCH?
Claimants can apply for a waiver online by logging into their Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) or by calling the UIA Customer Service line at 1-866-500-0017. You must apply and be approved for the waiver before you certify for benefits for the bi-weekly certification period. You will be notified at the time of the request whether a waiver of the requirement is granted.
Claimants can begin applying for a work search waiver May 30, 2021.
UPDATE 8 JUNE 2021:
Union members in good standing have a sort-of waiver for doing work search activity. We have changed the “contact” form on this website to make that easier. On the form, choose “Availability” for subject and fill in the required other information. You will receive an email notification in return. KEEP THAT EMAIL to prove to Michigan UIA you did it in case for some reason you are audited. UIA can ask for your documentation for up to two years.
You still need to list it under work search activities for each week when they certify, however. When you certify online, you will see the usual list of questions with some additions. Don’t just go on autopilot and say “no” to everything! Some of the answers should be yes or you won’t be paid for the week.
One of the questions asked is if you performed a work search activity. There will be a drop-down menu. Choose “submitted an application/resume” or the closest thing to that it says (I don’t certify until next week and haven’t seen it so I’m not sure of the exact wording). Then enter the contact information for Local 26 as requested.
What about PUA?
If you are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and you are self-employed, you are not required to apply for a waiver. A waiver will be automatically granted.
*Note that “and”. If you are on PUA but employed by someone from whom you receive a W-2, you are not self-employed.
June 10 Update from MI UIA
How to complete your work search
The first time you are required to include the details of your work search activity is when you certify for the week ending June 5, 2021.
The preferred method for reporting work search activities is online using your Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) account.
- Enter your work search activity in MiWAM at Michigan.gov/uia. Questions about your work search will be included with your regular certification questions. Enter the details of your Work Search Activity for Week 1 and Week 2.
- Certify with MiWAM any day during your certification week.
- Certify by phone with MARVIN at 866-638-3993. Listen carefully to the prompts and answer the certification questions. After completing the automated questions, you must stay on the line to be connected with an agent to provide the details of your work search.
- Do not hang up before you have provided your work search details or your certification will not be complete, and your benefits will not be paid.
What to include when reporting your work search activities:
- Date of Contact – The date of your work search activity must fall within the week ending date (Sunday through Saturday) for each
- Activity – Enter the work search activity for the week you are claiming benefits. One is required, but additional can be entered. Allowable work search activities may include submitting applications, contacting employers, checking resources at employment offices, checking job listings at Michigan Works, attending job fairs or employment workshops.
- Name of Employer/Organization/Search Engine – Write the name, if known, or the online job search site, or employment service or agency that was contacted. If the search was done online and the employer was not specified, enter the name of the search engine, employment service or employment Enter the Michigan Works agency that you used for your work search activity.
- Employer Address/Online Location – Enter the location where work was sought, physical address or online website address. If the contact was made by telephone or fax, enter the phone number
- Method of Contact – Enter how contact was made (e.g., Online, email, in person, phone, mail, fax, ).
For most of the pandemic, the UIA has not been enforcing the day/time on which you certify, instead letting you certify any time during the week you are told to do it. I’ve heard a rumour I cannot substantiate at this point that they’re going to start enforcing the day/time again, most particularly for those who certify over the phone through MARVIN. For those folks, what I hear is you’ll have to go back to the old way where your time to certify is determined by the last two digits of your Social Security number. Those two digits automatically assign you a four-hour window each week Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday during which you may certify. If you miss your window, Thursday and Friday are make-up days. I mention this only because the rumour is those requirements are going into effect on June 7, 2021. I would hope UIA will inform everyone beforehand if that is true, but you never know.
Update 30 May 2021
It’s no longer a rumour… according to the email I got today, starting June 7 if you certify by phone you MUST call during your allotted time by the last two digits of your Social Security number, or use the make-up days. Below is the list of numbers and days/times.
The entire list of Employee FAQs for Michigan Unemployment can be found here. If you have further questions, please check there to see if the answer is available.
If you need help understanding something, please reach out to us via email (found on the Contact Us page of this website) and we will do our best to explain. You can also call the office, but it’s not guaranteed someone will be there who can answer your questions. Office hours can also be found on that same page, where any known/planned changes will be listed as well.
Be safe. Stay healthy. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t. Please wear a mask at least as required, if not all the time. WASH YOUR HANDS!