Legislator calls on UIA not to charge residents for its own failures
State Rep. Ann Bollin today said the people of Michigan deserve answers from the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency after a letter from the federal government revealed the state agency hid an error from the public for six months before recipients were notified.
As early as Jan. 6, the federal government told the state agency that multiple qualification requirements the state had developed were not in compliance with federal law. As a result of the error, the UIA sent letters in June informing nearly 700,000 people that they would be required to fill out additional paperwork to determine if they were truly eligible for the pandemic unemployment assistance they received. If not, the UIA says they may be required to pay money back to the state.
“When hundreds of thousands of Michiganders lost their jobs due to the governor’s economic shutdown, the unemployment agency was supposed to step in and offer help. Instead, the dysfunctional department has done nothing but add to people’s problems,” said Bollin, of Brighton Township. “Now, we find out that the agency knew about its mistake and kept it secret for six months before finally deciding to let people know their benefits may have been approved in error. This type of behavior is unacceptable. We are going to get residents who have been affected the answers they deserve.”
This week, several residents testified before the Oversight Committee about their experiences and the amount of money the UIA has indicated they may have to repay. Some totals were as high as $27,000.
Next week, UIA Director Liza Estlund Olson has been asked to appear before the committee to explain the decision-making involved in keeping the error secret for six months.
To protect residents who received benefits from having money clawed back by the unemployment agency, Bollin co-sponsored a plan introduced this week in the Legislature. House Bill 5265 would keep recipients from having to reimburse the UIA for benefits issued due to agency error. It was referred to the House Oversight Committee for consideration.
“I will fight to protect everyone who followed the rules laid out by the UIA to file an unemployment claim during the pandemic,” Bollin said. “These people shouldn’t owe the Whitmer administration a penny.”
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