LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan effort to address the ongoing problems at the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) received final approval from the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.
House Bills 5165-5172 would make significant changes throughout the unemployment benefits system. The primary focus of this package is both reducing fraudulent claims and giving affected employers and employees a means to address claims filed by imposters.
“These benefits are meant to be used in an emergency situation,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Instead of providing assistance to those who needed a hand up while they got back on their feet, as the agency was intended to do, the system created a massive debacle that resulted in many Michigan residents being wrongly accused of fraud and losing their assistance.”
The bills also require the UIA to increase reporting requirements to the Legislature and implement several additional internal measures that would better determine if claims are fraudulent or filed through a stolen identity. If a claim is determined to be fraudulent, the UIA will then cancel all benefits on a claim.
The agency would also then be required to credit an employer’s account for benefits paid to an impostor that were charged to the account.
“These are necessary reforms that will ensure the system works as it is meant to,” Schuitmaker said. “Simply stating that ‘a computer error’ falsely accused and caused more than 37,000 people to lose their benefits is not enough. We need to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
HBs 5165-5172 will now go to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.