State Rep. Doug Wozniak and fellow members of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday rolled out a plan to correct glaring problems at the Unemployment Insurance Agency.
“Oversight is an important function of the Legislature to ensure laws are followed and programs properly administered, and our Oversight Committee has repeatedly observed failures at the unemployment agency,” said Wozniak of Shelby Township. “When agency leaders neglect obvious problems, it is our job to correct administrative failures through the legislative process. Our new plan will make the unemployment system work for the people of our state in need of temporary jobless benefits.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions caused a surge in unemployment claims, numerous Michigan residents faced delays and poor communication from the UIA when they filed for benefits. Some people were even asked to repay funds the UIA had approved in error. Wozniak’s office alone has helped thousands of Macomb County residents obtain assistance with their claims.
The plan announced this week will institute several reforms to clean up the UIA. The plan will reduce delays by requiring the agency to complete its review and determination for each claim within 10 business days. There is currently no set timeline for reviewing unemployment claims.
A new independent citizens’ advocate will help address two failures at the agency. First, the advocate will help improve customer service and communication by serving as a liaison whom claimants can contact for assistance.
The advocate will also shed light on the unemployment agency’s use of the administrative appeals process, which can slow down pending cases for unemployed workers. The UIA will be required to file a report with the advocate detailing the number of cases appealed and the amount of time cases are delayed during the process.
Transparency will also be strengthened by requiring publicly accessible information about the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF). Taxes on businesses support the UITF, and tax rates can increase if the fund gets too low. Businesses and other interested citizens will be able to review accurate data about the UITF in a timely manner under the plan.
Finally, the plan will help protect recipients of benefits issued improperly by reducing the UIA’s three-year window to reclaim erroneous benefits to one year. The new window would not apply to instances of fraud.
Legislation to carry out the plan will be introduced in the House of Representatives soon.
“Something as critical as school safety resources needs immediate, robust consideration to ensure the package meets all relevant needs,” Wozniak said. “My Democrat colleagues have spoken about the importance of the committee process, yet they have not held a hearing to consider the bills. It’s time for the Education Committee to honor their responsibilities to our children and hold a hearing on the bipartisan school safety plan.”
“Probate Court looks out for people in times of crisis, where time is of the essence,” said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. “These caseloads don’t usually involve people who can wait weeks or sometimes even days for a hearing. We’re talking about orphaned children with nowhere to go, mentally ill and developmentally disabled loved ones, and folks looking for the authority to make medical decisions for incapacitated family members, and myriad of other circumstances where timely, thoughtful decisions need to be made. Macomb County needs this additional judicial position to help ensure our vulnerable family, friends and neighbors are properly served.”
“These bills would add $72 million dollars in new fees to the bills of public water customers, each year,” said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. “The state already has too many poorly managed and underperforming programs. Macomb County residents are not clamoring for an expensive new program from which they would receive no benefit.”
“People want assurances government officials are using proceeds from the sale of property seized by the government exactly according to law,” said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. “Corruption or even the appearance of corruption is a stain on our society. Our plan brings greater clarity to the civil asset forfeiture law by refining the process and limitations for its use.”