State Rep. Bronna Kahle today called on Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency to boost staffing and improve services for workers forced out of their jobs by the COVID-19 crisis.
The UIA’s flaws were the subject of a special hearing this week by the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, which features both House and Senate members.
About 1.7 million Michigan residents – more than a quarter of the state’s workforce – have been forced into unemployment since mid-March. Many have struggled getting through the initial filing process because of dropped calls, long waits on hold, and a UIA website that crashes during high volume periods and is difficult to navigate even when logging in is successful. After finally being able to file a claim, many Michigan residents face delays in getting the benefits they expect and deserve.
“Every single day, I hear more heartbreaking stories about how the unemployment agency is failing our friends, neighbors and families,” Kahle said. “These workers – in Lenawee County and across the state – have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. And when people turn to the state for help, they are too often met with automated messages that don’t answer their questions or address their concerns.
“Lenawee County residents are suffering – and deserve better. As their voice in state government, I am working to bring about positive change in the UIA that will help improve its performance here and across the state. The agency must improve its staffing levels so frustrated and worried residents with follow-up questions can talk to a real, live person and improve service across the board.”
The agency has previously indicated that it can’t handle the volume of calls it receives each day. In late April, UIA Director Steve Gray apologized for flaws that were being reported and said the state’s unemployment website was not as user-friendly as it could be.
Kahle said the agency simply has not done enough to improve.
“I am listening to the concerns of Lenawee County residents, and by far the concern I hear about most often during this challenging time is the failure of the unemployment benefits system,” Kahle said. “People are counting on this assistance to feed their children and pay their bills. The agency must do a better job.”