State Rep. Mike Harris on Thursday called for the House Ethics and Oversight Committee to consider a plan, introduced by House Republicans, to overhaul the Unemployment Insurance Agency after Michigan’s nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General uncovered failures by the UIA. The audit, released Wednesday, found the UIA neglected to investigate improper payments made during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Governor Whitmer keeps claiming the problems have been fixed and everything at the UIA is just fine, but I find it hard to believe everything can be all sunshine and rainbows if our tax dollars were sent to the incarcerated and deceased as recently as a year ago,” said Harris, R-Waterford. “Democrat policies have hit employers with massive cost increases, putting everyday people out of job through no fault of their own. The agency meant to help jobseekers is on fire and the governor is standing out front telling everyone to ignore the smoke.”
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 and failed to recover many payments and penalties. To date, audits have already uncovered billions of dollars in fraudulent payments. The most recent 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.
“Based on their reaction to this audit, the UIA wants to see this all swept under the rug,” said Harris, who serves as a member of the House Oversight and Ethics Committee. “The audits only happened because House Republicans led the charge to investigate UIA payments, including potential fraud, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve since introduced legislation that would overhaul the UIA with long-overdue reforms. That plan is sitting in the House Oversight and Ethics Committee, which under Democrat control has not met since June.”
The House Republican plan to reform the UIA, co-sponsored by Harris, would increase transparency, prevent fraud, and improve customer service for unemployed workers seeking benefits and employers who pay taxes into the unemployment system.
“Instead of considering our common-sense solutions, Democrats are toying with the idea of permanent entitlements,” Harris said. “Our unemployed workers need job training and help connecting with long-term career opportunities, not the state government lighting their tax dollars on fire by allowing fraud like this.”
“Many Oakland County families exercise their right to educate their kids at home,” said Harris, R-Waterford. “While some politicians float new red tape on homeschooling, I’m looking forward to meeting with homeschool families and other interested citizens from our community.”