First-of-its-kind stakeholder group prioritizes equity, customer service, fighting fraud
The UIA Modernization Workgroup held its first meeting today in Lansing to discuss reform priorities that will improve the way the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) serves Michigan workers and employers. The workgroup of representatives from labor, business, and jobless advocacy groups set goals including equity, customer service, trust fund, and fighting fraud to build on continuing short- and long-term reforms at the agency.
“This was an important step in our continued reform of the UIA into an agency that provides fast, fair and fraud-free service,” said UIA Director Julia Dale. “The UIA Modernization Workgroup members bring a diversity of experiences to the table. Each will provide key insights into how best to achieve our goal of setting a gold standard in serving Michigan’s residents and transforming the agency into one that states across the county will be eager to emulate.”
The UIA Modernization Workgroup’s goals include:
- Equitably providing access to benefits for all groups of workers and making payments in a timely and efficient manner.
- Growing and protecting the trust fund during future adverse economic conditions.
- Exploring the duration and level of partial income replacement for unemployed workers.
- Offering alternatives for businesses to support workers through reduced hours and partial benefits.
- Reducing fraudulent claims.
- Recognizing the role unemployment compensation plays as an economic stabilizer.
“The Michigan Poverty Law Program provides support to Legal Aid offices statewide. As MPLP’s public benefits attorney, I have firsthand knowledge of the challenges jobless Michigan workers have experienced when attempting to file for and receive unemployment benefits,” said Lisa Ruby. “When payments are delayed or denied due to technology, dire consequences can ensue, including utility shutoffs, lack of medical care, hunger and homelessness. I am looking forward to working with other stakeholders to modernize and simplify the user experience so that an inability to navigate a website is not an obstacle to receiving benefits. I am grateful to be a part of Director Dale’s efforts to provide efficient access to unemployment benefits to Michiganders.”
“The Upjohn Institute is delighted to be part of this important work and, through our extensive research background on UI issues, help the workgroup to identify options for improving the UI system for employers and recipients,” said Mike Horrigan, president of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
The Michigan Poverty Law Program and Upjohn Institute are two stakeholders participating in the workgroup. Others are the Detroit Regional Chamber; 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 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Michigan League for Public Policy; Michigan Manufacturers Association; SEIU Local No. 517M; Small Business Association of Michigan; UNITE HERE Local 24; and University of Michigan Poverty Solutions.
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 a replacement for the agency’s decade-old computer system with a user-friendly, state-of-the-art interface for claimants and businesses. A 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 waivers to people who were asked to pay back benefits, waiving more than $555 million in overpayments. UIA continues to evaluate populations for future waivers.
- 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.
- Secured a $6.8 million equity grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) so it is easier for workers in underserved communities to access jobless benefits.
- 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 who lose their job through no fault of their own.
- Reassigned staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims that are contributing to the agency’s overall case backlog.
- Worked to simplify correspondence using a human-centered approach to make letters easier to understand for claimants and employers.