Michigan's unemployment insurance agency will be extending office hours this weekend to help tackle its overwhelmingly high call volume.
"Agency staff will be assisting customers in-person at our Problem Resolution Offices (PRO), answering inquiries by phone at multiple call centers and responding to online inquiries," said UIA Director Steve Arwood.
The agency will make on-site office staff, phone lines and internet assistance available to customers Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The agency has experienced increased calls lately due to seasonal layoffs, recent changes in eligibility for extended benefits programs and shortened work weeks due to holidays.
Last March, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that reduced unemployment insurance benefits in the state from 26 weeks to 20.
In December, the governor signed another bill that changed to definition of "voluntary leave" to include missing three weeks of work without notice. Those who take voluntary leave are not eligible for jobless benefits. The law also changed rules relating to "unsuitable work." Now, residents can be more easily disqualified for unemployment compensation if they can find any paying job at all.
Michigan's official jobless rate was 9.3 percent in December, the lowest it's been since 2008.
The latest statistics have yet to be released, but the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said Michigan's jobless numbers had decreased enough by Jan. 28 to fall below the level required for the federal Extended Benefits program for unemployment compensation.
Some 29,500 unemployed workers in Michigan will lose benefits with the loss of the federal program.
For assistance with state unemployment individuals can call the UIA Customer Service Line at (866) 500-0017. They can also call (866) 241-0152 for inquiries about federal unemployment programs.
The Detroit PRO office is located at 3024 W. Grand Blvd, Cadillac Place.