Poverty Solutions to help guide Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency reforms
Contact: Nick Assendelft, AssendelftN@Michigan.gov, 517-388-3135
LANSING – The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency continues its transformation of the agency by announcing today a UIA Modernization Workgroup, which will advise the UIA on significant improvements in how it can better serve Michigan workers and employers. Members of the workgroup represent labor, business, and jobless advocates.
The UIA Modernization Workgroup will build on Director Julia Dale’s reform efforts that include improving customer service, fighting fraud, and reducing UIA’s case backlogs. The workgroup’s goal is to provide strategic immediate and future recommendations that will continue Dale’s goal of building an agency that is user-focused and allows for efficient processing of claims, payments, and tax collections.
“This partnership with organizations representing workers and employers reinforces the UIA’s commitment to ensure Michiganders who lose their jobs through no fault of their own will have easy, efficient, and equitable access to the jobless benefits they deserve,” Dale said. “Feedback from a coalition of partners uniquely experienced in the nuances and subtleties of the Michigan unemployment program is critical to instituting meaningful reform at the UIA.”
The stakeholders participating in the workgroup are the Detroit Regional Chamber; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; IBEW Local 58; Legal Services Association of Michigan; Michigan AFL-CIO; Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council; Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget; Michigan Health and Hospital Association; Michigan League for Public Policy; Michigan Manufacturers Association; Michigan Poverty Law Program; SEIU Local No. 517M; Small Business Association of Michigan; UNITE HERE Local 24; University of Michigan Poverty Solutions; and the Upjohn Institute.
The workgroup will have four priorities:
- Setting modernization goals.
- Understanding users’ experiences and needs.
- Supporting Michigan workers and economy.
- Stabilizing the Trust Fund and continued partnership.
It will also provide informal recommendations on other UIA issues as they are identified by UIA’s Director and staff.
“Each organization’s unique experience, coupled with the Agency’s goal to implement significant change, will allow us to build a system that works for every Michigander,” Dale said. “I’m excited to collaborate closely with the members of the workgroup on immediate and long-term substantive changes that will have significant positive impacts on the ways users access the services that we provide.”
Unemployment compensation is a lifeline for workers, and weekly benefits ensure they can stay afloat, cover rent or mortgage payments, buy food and clothing, access transportation to look for work, and pay household bills. Lowering barriers with a user-focused application process will ensure timely delivery of benefits and facilitate job searches for every worker.
The UIA Modernization Workgroup builds on important reforms under Director Dale’s leadership:
- Announced the replacement of the agency’s decade-old computer system with a user-friendly, state-of-the-art interface for claimants and businesses. The new system will allow timely program adjustments as economic conditions change and quick analysis of data, which is currently not possible.
- Collaborated with the Attorney General’s office as well as local, state and federal law enforcement to bring bad actors to justice and combat fraud at the agency.
- Approved more than 76,000 overpayment waivers of state and federal benefits paid out during the global pandemic, waiving more than $555 million.
- Halted overpayment collections on claims filed since March 1, 2020, while the agency addresses pending protests and appeals.
- Revamped the Michigan.gov/UIA website to make it more responsive to those using a mobile phone or tablet to access services.
- Identified initiatives and processes that would ease access to jobless benefits for workers in underserved communities under a $6.8 million equity grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).
- Reassigned staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims that are contributing to the agency’s case backlogs.
- Identified necessary changes to correspondence to add a human-centered approach to make letters easier to understand for claimants and employers.
- Implemented new ethics and security clearance policies for employees and contractors.
- Rebuilt to nearly $1.8 billion (and growing) the UI Trust Fund from which weekly benefits are paid to workers.