State Rep. Pat Outman (right), vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, joins chairman Rep. Steve Johnson to unveil a plan to fix the state’s failing unemployment agency.
State Rep. Pat Outman today helped unveil sweeping reforms to fix the state’s broken 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 hardworking Michiganders know they can count on in the future.
“The number of people who were failed by the unemployment agency during the pandemic is unconscionable,” said Outman, who serves as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee. “Our committee has spent a great deal of time listening to residents and delving into these problems. We took all of the information we gathered and used it to find solutions to add accountability and improve effectiveness moving forward.”
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. Outman said he has been contacted by many residents who are on pins and needles – unsure if they will get a bill in the mail from the state asking for repayment years after they have received benefits due to an administrative mistake. The House Oversight Committee 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 would not be available for benefits and that 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 in the House this week.
State Rep. Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes) joined his House colleagues this week in advancing a state budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year that makes responsible, lasting investments in essential public infrastructure, programs and services and lays the foundation for real tax relief.