State Rep. Timmy Beson has joined other legislators in calling for a House panel to follow up on the latest concerning revelations regarding the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency to protect taxpayers and people who need assistance through key state programs.
Michigan’s nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General recently released its fifth and final audit of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency – examining fraud and improper payments perpetuated by a key department within Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The audit into the Investigations Division at UIA found that between January 2020 and October 2022, the agency failed to attempt to identify a large share of imposter claims and fell short in recovering many payments and penalties. The report revealed another $245.1 million in potentially improper payments to ineligible individuals. The UIA did not identify or act to evaluate whether the payments were appropriate.
“Some of these incidents include payments made to people who were no longer alive or were serving time in prison,” Beson said. “What we have seen is not acceptable and it hurt hardworking small business owners and taxpayers who help fund these types of programs specifically designed for people facing uncertain times. It’s important to develop solutions and deliver accountability so the state doesn’t find itself in a mess like this again.”
The report brings the estimated overpayments by UIA during the pandemic to $8.3 billion – $5.6 of which is due to suspected fraud. Beson recently signed onto a letter asking the House Ethics and Oversight Committee to explore the additional, massive amount of fraud that has been uncovered and get answers for why the agency continued to send tax dollars to individuals and entities that were taking advantage of Michigan’s most vulnerable. The committee has not met since June, even as additional details involving UIA have been disclosed.
Beson also said the audits show a clear need to act on legislation that reforms the unemployment agency, increases transparency, prevents fraud, and improves customer service for both unemployed workers seeking benefits and the employers who pay taxes into the unemployment system. In April of last year, House Republicans introduced House Bills 4369-74, which give people a layer of accountability and transparency they didn’t have previously and protect taxpayers. The bills have not yet received a hearing in the House Ethics and Oversight Committee.
“Even with the challenges the pandemic presented, the agency has clearly fallen short in their responsibilities and must be reformed. This level of fraud and mistakes of this magnitude demand action,” Beson said. “The state is responsible for departments and programs that work for taxpayers who help fund them and for people who need them. Instead of hearing over and over that problems are getting fixed and hoping similar issues don’t pop up in the future, we need protections in law that get us closer to that reality. When public dollars are misused in this fashion, people lose faith in government.”
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