State Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) today unveiled sweeping reforms to better serve jobless Michigan workers by correcting numerous mistakes and procedural issues involving the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.
The reforms will improve the agency’s efficiency and work to re-establish trust – ensuring better customer service for the people of Michigan. They promote accountability and provide clarity for many people across the state who have been entangled in errors made by the agency and its leaders while protecting hard-working small-business owners.
“As chair of the House Oversight Committee, I have heard from many people who have been misled and failed by a clear pattern of gross incompetence,” Johnson said. “It’s important to take the next step and develop solutions that will ensure an agency that operates more effectively going forward. Many people have gone through a great deal of hardship due to COVID-19 and executive orders in response. They needed UIA to assist them in a time of need and unfortunately the agency did not come through for them when its chief responsibility is to serve the people. That cannot happen again.”
The multi-bill package includes:
- A consistent and accelerated review process: New rules will require UIA to complete reviews and determinations within 10 business days. The change will help Michigan residents who are out of work and in need of assistance to make ends meet and support their families. There currently is no clear-cut timeframe or deadline to review a jobless claim.
- New provisions to protect workers: Trimming the current three-year look back period to one year will give jobless claimants and job providers more certainty moving forward. Johnson said he has been concerned by many residents who are on pins and needles – unsure if they will get a repayment bill in the mail years later due to the state’s mistake after they have received benefits. The House Oversight Committee, led by Johnson, is also advancing separate legislation that would prohibit UIA from going after money that was wrongly paid out due to a misinterpretation of federal law.
- Accountability for the people: To address continued customer service concerns, the plan creates a new independent citizens’ advocate to serve as a point-of-contact for families who need help getting the jobless benefits they deserve. UIA would be required to submit a report to the citizens’ advocate outlining the number of cases that have been appealed by the agency and sent to the internal Board of Appeals Commission, as well as the length of time cases have sat before the commission before a final resolution is reached.
- More communication within state government: The proposal requires UIA to provide accurate and timely data regarding the status of the agency’s trust fund that is used to pay out benefits. The fund was heavily depleted as millions sought benefits over the last 18 months – causing concerns that money may not be available for benefits and many businesses, which are charged with paying into the fund, would see a contribution increase. The reporting would improve communication between a vital administrative arm and representatives of the people.
The legislation is expected to be formally introduced this week on the House floor.
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) is joined by several Michigan House members in unveiling legislation reforming the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at the state Capitol in Lansing.
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