Investigating Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency
Thousands of Michigan residents are wondering why it took so long. The Michigan State House Oversight Committee is opening a wide-ranging investigation into the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Committee Chair Steve Johnson from Wayland says it’s already underway and will broaden as the legislature returns to Lansing from its summer break. Quoting Johnson,
"The Unemployment Agency has been a complete mess."
And some say that may be the understatement of the decade surrounding Michigan’s problems dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. There have seemingly been one issue after another.
The most recent coming to light this week with around 700,000 unemployment benefits recipients being told by the department they are facing more tax filing requirements and in the end, may have to pay back a good portion of the benefits they’ve received. In some cases, recipients waited weeks and months before the state began sending them anything. While at the same time, the department paid out well over $1 billion to criminals who filed fraudulent claims. At the start of the virus outbreak, the department relaxed some of its control mechanisms to make sure people claiming benefits really deserved them. There’s been little announced work on the part of the state to attempt to recapture all that fraudulently obtained money.
Late last year, Marshall Republican State Representative Matt Hall was calling out Governor Gretchen Whitmer for the ongoing mess in the unemployment department. Specifically, for the Governor vetoing legislature appropriated funding of around $200 million to help shore up the department's depleted account to make sure people who needed out-of-work-benefits wouldn’t be left empty-handed after the huge fraud claims took a big chunk. New Oversight Committee Chairman Steve Johnson says it will be no small task facing the committee, dealing with what in his words amounts to a,
“...pattern of mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud within the Unemployment Agency.”