State Rep. Pat Outman recently testified before a House committee in support of his plan to improve service for residents dealing with the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Outman, of Six Lakes, said the reforms address the numerous mistakes and procedural issues that frustrated hundreds of thousands of jobless residents during the pandemic, with a goal toward improving service and establishing a system hard-working Michiganders know they can count on in the future.
“I had people in our community reaching out to our office regarding their unemployment who had not received their jobless benefits, or any correspondence from the agency in months,” Outman said. “This is simply unacceptable. We also recently learned that nearly $4 billion of benefits were improperly billed out. While a waiver has been sent out to those individuals, no such waiver has been sent out to employers. House Bill 5528 ensures businesses are equally protected.”
Outman’s House Bill 5528 prohibits the UIA from charging improperly paid Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits to various accounts and funds, while House Bill 5550 requires the UIA to post daily the amount of money in the unemployment compensation fund on its website so its balance is public.
Other parts of the UIA reform plan include:
- 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. The House Oversight Committee is also advancing separate legislation to 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 would not be available for benefits. The reporting would improve communication between a vital administrative arm and representatives of the people.
House Bills 5528, and 5549-54 (the remainder of the package) remain under consideration by the House Oversight Committee.
“Michigan families are tired of shelling out for high electric bills and being rewarded with power outages every time it storms. That’s the problem I’m focused on solving,” said Outman, R-Six Lakes, a member of the House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee. “The Democrats in control have another agenda. They’re pushing extreme mandates that cater to the environmental lobby while sticking residents with even higher costs for less reliability.”
The governor plans to give state government the power to permit solar projects by shifting control away from local government.
“Large-scale solar projects could have significant ramifications in some communities. Local officials know what’s best in their unique corners of the state,” Outman said. “The governor should respect their roles and stay out of community-level issues. My Republican colleagues are digging in our heels when it comes to maintaining local control.”