Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Harris: Broken unemployment system needs fix, not expansion
RELEASE|June 26, 2024
Contact: Mike Harris

State Rep. Mike Harris on Wednesday proposed a plan to help fix Michigan’s broken unemployment system and prevent the poor decisions that led to billions of dollars in fraud and other improper payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harris, R-Waterford, introduced his proposal the same day the House voted on separate legislation that would allow unemployed claimants to receive up to 26 weeks of jobless benefits within a year. Benefits are currently capped at 20 weeks annually, and extending eligibility would lead to higher taxes on the employers who fund the unemployment system.

“The broken unemployment agency let billions of dollars slip out the door to fraudsters and faulty claims,” Harris said. “The agency needs to get its house in order, and adding more weeks of unemployment benefits will just allow criminals to rake in even more from fraud. Longer unemployment will mean higher taxes for small businesses in our communities, and uncontrolled fraud bilks even more from our local job providers.”

Harris introduced House Bill 5859, which would prevent the unemployment agency from unilaterally reassigning employees out of the investigations division without approval from the Legislature. The agency would also need legislative approval to rescind rules that prevent fraud by delaying initial payments to claimants and flagging fraudulent claims in the agency’s computer system.

“The unemployment director made excuses for all the fraud the agency paid out during the pandemic, because the agency transferred investigators to other roles and rolled back safeguards to get payments out the door faster,” Harris said. “My plan will ensure that the unemployment agency doesn’t roll back key fraud protections without approval from the people’s representatives.”

HB 5827, the bill extending unemployment to 26 weeks, passed the House along party lines. Harris supported an amendment that would prevent HB 5827 from taking effect unless his bill to prevent fraud also becomes law, but Democrats blocked the amendment.

“The unemployment rate is low, and businesses need workers,” Harris said.  “Now is not the time to incentivize people to stay out of work longer.”

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