House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, on Wednesday issued the following statement after Michigan’s nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General further exposed the failure of Gov. Whitmer’s Unemployment Insurance Agency to investigate and address fraud and improper payments during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is the OAG’s fifth and final audit of the UIA in response to a 2020 request by Hall and other legislative leaders.
“Repairing Gov. Whitmer’s broken unemployment agency and restoring the trust of workers and businesses deserves a vigorous bipartisan effort. The new audit uncovering the agency’s failure to go after fraud makes that even clearer. The governor and her bureaucrats keep claiming they’ve fixed the problems, but this audit shows the agency improperly paid out benefits to dead people, prisoners, and long-term care residents as recently as 2022 — years after the start of the pandemic.
“Since I presided over COVID-19 oversight hearings and exposed billions of dollars in fraud paid out by Gov. Whitmer’s administration, I’ve been leading the charge to reform the unemployment system, and House Republicans have laid out our plan to make the agency more open, accountable, and accessible to the people who need it. House Republicans have also helped create new training opportunities for workers to learn new skills, broaden their horizons, and gain good careers. Michigan businesses need good workers, and we need to focus on reforms that will preserve unemployment benefits as an accessible, temporary lifeline to help working families get back on their feet.
“Instead of repairing and reforming unemployment assistance, Gov. Whitmer and Democrats in the Legislature prefer to make unemployment a permanent entitlement and keep people out of work longer. They’ve introduced legislation to hand out even more money regardless of the unemployment rate, pay people to stay out of work longer, and increase burdens on job providers — rather than fixing the failing system and focusing on helping get breadwinners back on the job. With a nonpartisan audit revealing even more mismanagement at Whitmer’s unemployment agency, cleaning up this mess should be a top priority for the bipartisan House of Representatives in 2024.”
The audit into the Investigations Division at the Whitmer administration’s UIA found that between January 2020 and October 2022, the agency failed to attempt to identify a large share of imposter claims or to recover many payments and penalties. The report revealed another $245.1 million in potentially improper payments to ineligible individuals, even after the agency found that an individual was dead or in prison. The UIA did not identify or act to evaluate whether the payments were appropriate.
Hall chaired the House Oversight Committee and the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020. Along with Sens. Aric Nesbitt and Ed McBroom, Hall set the auditor general investigation in motion in August 2020 by requesting a comprehensive review to examine the UIA’s staffing policies, security protocols, processing of claims, and fraud mitigation efforts, and five audits resulted from that request.
Hall and fellow House Republicans have introduced a package of legislation, House Bills 4369-4374, to reform the unemployment agency, increase transparency, prevent fraud, and improve customer service for both unemployed workers seeking benefits and the employers who pay taxes into the unemployment system.
Under Democrat control, the House Ethics and Oversight Committee hasn’t met since June.
“As Michigan struggles to grow, the governor just wants to slap a Band-Aid on our economy while ignoring the deep-seated problems that Democrat policies have exacerbated,” Hall said. “Our state needs to strengthen our economy by lowering our taxes and fostering a fair, reasonable regulatory environment that makes sense for Michigan workers and small businesses.”
“Speaker Tate still refuses to admit that the House is in shared power, but he’s feeling its effects as House Republicans rack up wins each time Democrats move our way. But even as Republicans secure victories, Democrats are blocking progress on the pressing issues facing Michiganders.”