State Rep. John Roth today joined House Speaker Jason Wentworth and other legislators in calling for the removal of Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Liza Estlund Olson.
“The missteps from UIA over the past several months have been numerous. There needs to be accountability for people as the state works to provide effective and efficient services,” said Roth, of Traverse City. “That starts at the top. Dealing with the unemployment agency has been a big issue for people I represent across Grand Traverse County. Through the director’s resignation or intervention from the governor, it’s time for change as people continue to struggle and question the agency’s approach.”
In 2020, UIA paid out millions in fraudulent claims, delayed payments for months to tens of thousands of real Michigan residents, and allowed politically connected state employees to skip the line past hard-working families trying to make ends meet.
While these problems continued to impact residents, former director Steve Gray resigned and Estlund Olson was installed in his place. But things have not gotten better. Recent instances of mismanagement include the following:
- UIA failed a federal monitoring report last winter and has still not fixed the problems that were uncovered eight months later. Director Estlund Olson skipped the meeting with the auditors where UIA was informed of their failures.
- UIA knowingly gave out benefits to ineligible recipients for months, and then sewed fear and confusion by sending 700,000 people a letter raising the possibility of back payments.
- UIA knowingly denied benefits to thousands of people who deserved help rather than update their software.
- UIA refused to hand over information regarding the back payment letters to the House Oversight Committee. The mistake was only brought to light when a third party gave the information to the committee’s chair, Rep. Steve Johnson.
- UIA repeatedly blamed multiple failures over the past year and a half on their software and a third-party vendor, including the failed website workers needed to use to apply for benefits. UIA and the governor quietly extended their contract with that vendor for another year earlier this week.
- UIA still has a backlog of 20,000 unpaid Michigan workers, 18 months into the pandemic and 10 months into Director Estlund Olson’s tenure.
- UIA waited 15 months to open any offices for in-person appointments, creating barriers for Michigan residents without reliable internet access and older workers trying to get help. To date, the agency has still only opened some of its offices for limited appointments statewide.
Last week, House Oversight Committee Chair Johnson called on UIA Director Estlund Olson to appear before the committee to further explain the timeline laid out in the federal report as well as the agency’s decision-making in recent months. Estlund Olson has communicated that she will appear before the committee on Sept. 9.
“The Legislature is working to get answers and develop effective solutions going forward,” Roth said. “Problems have continued to persist. It’s unacceptable and Gov. Whitmer’s administration needs to work to set it right.”
State Rep. John Roth, of Traverse City, is joined by Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Chief Pat Parker on Thursday, Sept. 9 during a special ceremony commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The ceremony honors first responders and members of the military from Michigan, including those who died in the line of duty in the […]