Unemployment Corrections On The Horizon
State Representative Steve Johnson was joined by several other Michigan House members on Tuesday, announcing corrections to numerous Unemployment Insurance Agency mistakes. Measures have been taken to deal with claims of rampant fraud, unemployment claims being denied and breakdowns in communication.
“As chair of the House Oversight Committee, I have heard from many people who have been misled and failed by a clear pattern of gross incompetence,” Johnson said. “It’s important to take the next step and develop solutions that will ensure an agency that operates more effectively going forward. Many people have gone through a great deal of hardship due to COVID-19 and executive orders in response. They needed UIA to assist them in a time of need and unfortunately, the agency did not come through for them when its chief responsibility is to serve the people. That cannot happen again.”
Towards that end, a new multi-bill package is expected to be formally introduced this week on the House floor.
The bill includes:
- A consistent and accelerated review process: New rules will require UIA to complete reviews and determinations within 10 business days. The change will help Michigan residents who are out of work and in need of assistance to make ends meet and support their families. There currently is no clear-cut timeframe or deadline to review a jobless claim.
- New provisions to protect workers: Trimming the current three-year look back period to one year will give jobless claimants and job providers more certainty moving forward. Johnson said he has been concerned by many residents who are on pins and needles – unsure if they will get a repayment bill in the mail years later due to the state’s mistake after they have received benefits. The House Oversight Committee, led by Johnson, is also advancing separate legislation that would prohibit UIA from going after money that was wrongly paid out due to a misinterpretation of federal law.
- Accountability for the people: To address continued customer service concerns, the plan creates a new independent citizens’ advocate to serve as a point-of-contact for families who need help getting the jobless benefits they deserve. UIA would be required to submit a report to the citizens’ advocate outlining the number of cases that have been appealed by the agency and sent to the internal Board of Appeals Commission, as well as the length of time cases have sat before the commission before a final resolution is reached.
- More communication within state government: The proposal requires UIA to provide accurate and timely data regarding the status of the agency’s trust fund that is used to pay out benefits. The fund was heavily depleted as millions sought benefits over the last 18 months – causing concerns that money may not be available for benefits and many businesses, which are charged with paying into the fund, would see a contribution increase. The reporting would improve communication between a vital administrative arm and representatives of the people.