Calhoun County Republican State Representative Matt Hall says there is an increasing need for transparency involving operational departments of the State of Michigan. Hall chairs a select legislative oversight committee looking at different aspects of the Whitmer administration COVID-19 virus control decisions. The committee so far has been focusing on monumental failures of the state’s handling of unemployment benefits.  The bipartisan committee last week heard testimony from the Director of the Unemployment Agency. Now, it is going over comments from Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio.

Last week, lawmakers were told that 134,000 people who filed for unemployment benefits have not received anything. The new update, which isn’t much better, is the number is now 125,000. Thousands more have only received partial unemployment benefits. Republican Hall says the shortfalls of the system are disgraceful. Says Hall, “When you’re a person who has not received a paycheck for seven or eight weeks and still can’t get through to talk to someone, successfully put in a claim, or have that claim fulfilled, it’s very demoralizing and stressful.”  One of the big problems according to Hall is that neither agency Director is willing to disclose how much warning they had about the Governor’s virus shutdown and whether they’ve asked for more help to deal with the crush of nearly two million state residents being forced to look for state help. The select committee also heard testimony from a number of state residents caught up in the mess. A woman from Marshall told lawmakers how she was forced to get a loan to cover bills since her benefits request filed in March is resulting in nothing. Her attempts to get direct contact with a person at the Unemployment Agency are getting nowhere.  Hall reveals he has received complaints about the agency’s poor customer service, which Director Donofrio says is unacceptable. Legislators and staff who have received pleas from residents about not being able to get through also were met at times with poor service when trying to reach out to the agency, Hall said.

“These agencies have been consistent in stating they’ve been in communication with the administration on how to handle this. The people we heard from across the state today who have tried to file claims were also consistent in explaining that process hasn’t worked,” Hall said. “People are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. The governor’s orders have caused over 20 percent of the state to be out of work. Based on the vague answers we’ve received, there seemed to be minimal planning or foresight to account for that. I have heard from many people who are looking to resume their livelihoods in part because they simply cannot get through to our state’s unemployment agency to get the financial support they are depending on. I will continue to push for answers and work to hold departments accountable.”

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