Many Michigan residents who have been out of work during the pandemic and filing for unemployment benefits are now eligible for an additional 20 weeks of benefits, the state said Thursday.

The Federal Extended Benefits (EB) program kicks in when a state’s jobless rate averages more than 8% for three consecutive months, bringing the total benefits period to 59 weeks for those impacted by COVID-19.

Once a claimant has exhausted their regular 26 weeks of benefits and the additional 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits, the 20 weeks will automatically kick in, according to a news release.

It is unclear whether filers for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), self-employed workers and independent contractors who would usually not qualify for state benefits, are eligible for the extended benefit weeks.

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“The Extended Benefit program will provide a much-needed safety net for Michiganders who have exhausted their current benefits and are still dealing with the long-term effects of unemployment due to COVID-19,” said Steve Gray, director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency, in a release.

The weekly benefit amount is the same as what the claimants received for regular benefits, which maxes out at $362 a week in Michigan. Claimants must continue to certify biweekly, but don’t have to complete a separate application to receive the benefits, the release said.

The program, which is mostly federally funded, has been enacted before in Michigan during the recession in 2009. In recent months, the state has seen record jobless rates, topping 22% in April, likely an all-time high. Since then, the unemployment rate has declined but was still at 8.7% in August, the most recent data from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget available.

Throughout this time, a variety of