State Response to COVID-19: Latest COVID Reponses from Michigan


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a series of programs to help essential workers and other Michigan citizens affected by COVID-19

  • “Futures for Frontliners” program
    • This program will provide a tuition-free option to earn a degree for essential workers who do not have a college degree
    • Inspired by GI Bill
    • Part of Gov’s goal to increase the percentage of working-age adults with a degree from 45% to 60% by 2030
  • Expanding the Michigan Work Share Program
    • The program allows employers to reduce worker hours and allows workers to collect partial unemployment insurance (UI) benefits
    • The expansion will allow workers to utilize the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUS) weekly benefit offered by the federal government in addition to Michigan UI benefits
  • The Governor is calling on congresspeople to support US Sen. Gary Peters’ Heroes Fund to provide hazard pay for essential workers
    • Heroes Fund would provide essential workers with an additional $13 per hour, up to $25,000
    • Medical workers could receive up to $15,000 recruitment incentive

Addressing the Problem/Action in the States

Futures for Frontliners is not addressing a problem caused by COVID-19, but is meant as a “thank you” to frontline workers, including those “staffing hospitals and nursing homes, stocking the shelves at grocery stores, providing child care to critical infrastructure workers, manufacturing PPE, protecting public safety, picking up trash, or delivering supplies[1].” This program will help to achieve the Governor’s goal of increasing the percentage of working-age adults with a college degree or technical certificate to 60% by 2030. This will work in tandem with the bipartisan Reconnect program passed by the Michigan legislature last month, which offers tuition-free access to community colleges to adults over 25 without a degree.

The Michigan Work Share Program allows employers to reduce workers’ hours during periods of low revenue and allows those workers to draw partial UI benefits. Gov. Whitmer’s executive order 2020-57 will expand the Work Share Program by lowering the requirement that work hour reductions will affect 10% of employees, down from 15%, among other changes[2]. This will allow more companies to partially furlough workers, and so will qualify more workers to collect state UI benefits. The federal CARES Act allows workers who qualify for at least $1 of state UI benefits to collect $600 a week of supplemental UI benefits from the federal government.

How are States Impacted

The impacts and effects of the Futures for Frontliners program are yet to be seen.

The expansion of the Work Share program will further insulate Michigan businesses from economic turbulence due to quarantine and social distancing measures. Furthermore, more Michigan employees will receive federal UI benefits. This means that Michigan will receive more federal COVID-19 funding indirectly, pulling more federal funds into the state’s economy.

What is the Expected Outcome?

Futures for Frontliners will have long-term implications for essential workers in Michigan. Higher educational attainment has been shown to improve reemployment chances for working-age adults and may contribute to future earnings. Additionally, this is a way for Michigan to show its appreciation to the more than three million[3] essential workers currently employed in Michigan

Lowering the threshold for companies to utilize the Michigan Work Share Program will allow more employers to save money during this period of quarantine and social-distancing measures. The workers that are partially furloughed will be able to collect Michigan UI benefits an the additional $600 a week of federal benefits.

Resources for State Leaders:

[1] MI Gov Press Release

[2] Michigan Executive Order 2020-57

[3] MI Gov Press Release