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LEO | What You Need to Know About the UIA Overpayment Lawsuit Settlement

Michigan Business Network
June 12, 2024 6:00 PM

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Workers who believe they were wrongly asked to repay pandemic-era unemployment benefits to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) can now go online for information about joining a class action lawsuit settlement. The website allows workers to file a claim to be reimbursed for money paid back to the UIA before protests and appeals were resolved or opt out of the settlement.

The settlement in Saunders v Unemployment Ins. Agency et al. marks a milestone in the UIA’s efforts to address issues that emerged during the national public health crisis, while continuing its transformation into a national model for fast, fair, and fraud-free service.

“I’m proud of the hard work by staff at the UIA to bring this case close to a resolution that benefits claimants and provides them the money they deserve,” said UIA Director Julia Dale. “Our focus has always been on doing what’s right for claimants and this settlement reflects our commitment to a fair conclusion for all parties involved. UIA is committed to correcting past wrongs and redoubling efforts to make sure workers get the benefits they deserve.”

Five things workers need to know

Those who believe they may qualify to be part of the settlement can:

  1. Go to the Claimant Homepage at Michigan.gov/UIA for access to information about the settlement, deadlines, court documents, and more. 
  2. Call the Settlement Administrator at 1-866-499-4565 or email info@bwclassactions.com.
  3. Watch for an email from UIA titled “Saunders v. UIA improper collections settlement alert” sent to those who may qualify for restitution.
  4. Log-in to Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) regularly to see if you've received a web message with the title “Saunders v. UIA Improper Collections Alert” letting you know you may qualify to be part of the settlement.
  5. Resolve problems with MiLOGIN or MiWAM passwords by calling UIA Customer Service at 1-866-500-0017 and select 7 for Account Access when prompted.

The deadline to file a claim, object to the settlement, or opt out is Nov. 4, 2024. A final approval hearing is scheduled for March 20, 2025. Go to bwclassactions.com for details.

A claims administrator will determine who qualifies for payments from a $55 million fund. The preliminary settlement agreement was approved April 25 by the Michigan Court of Claims.

At issue is millions of dollars in unemployment benefits workers were ordered to repay before the UIA could determine whether protests or appeals were submitted on time or at all on a wave of claims filed as part of federal pandemic programs. Those claims overwhelmed the UIA’s outdated MiWAM computer system. To address this issue, the UIA is designing a new computer system called MiUI that will be fully operational in 2025. MiUI will speed claim filing for workers and tax collection for employers and enhance the overall user experience with a user-friendly design and interface. Additionally, MiUI will feature robust anti-fraud processes to stop bad actors who try to steal taxpayer money, ensuring a more secure and efficient system for all users.

As part of the litigation process, the Court of Claims ordered the UIA to stop collecting on claims filed on after March 1, 2020, and later where a worker may have filed a protest or appeal. The Court of Claims will decide when collections resume.

Under the agreement, UIA is not admitting to liability in the case. Workers who join the settlement must agree to release all claims against the UIA, or they can opt out.

Creating solutions for Michigan's workers

The settlement is one of many new or expanded resources the UIA provides workers as helpful tools as they apply for unemployment benefits after losing a job though no fault of their own. The resources include:

  • The UIA Claimant Roadmap is a six-step guide to applying for and understanding benefits. The roadmap is an easy-to-follow, user-friendly resource that can be found at Michigan.gov/UIAClaimantRoadmap.
  • Ten UIA staff members are assigned to regions across Michigan through the UIA Community Connect program to provide hands-on help for workers navigating the unemployment insurance application process. They also connect workers and employers to UIA’s outreach and education resources.
  • Six new advocates have been added to the Advocacy Program to provide free legal advice to workers who appeal UIA redeterminations.
  • The UIA Economic Dashboard includes granular data about underlying trends in unemployment insurance in Michigan. The dashboard provides a rich understanding of the impacts of unemployment across industries, occupations, and communities. It also highlights which sectors are experiencing layoffs, claimant demographics, and the regions most affected. You can take a deep dive into the data at Michigan.gov/UIAEconomicDashboard.

Modernizing, transforming the UIA

Since being named by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October 2021 to lead the UIA, Director Dale – the agency's 11th director in as many years – has launched a number of innovative reforms to modernize the agency, including:

  • Renovating five UIA Local Offices to create an improved user experience and make security upgrades. The offices undergoing construction are in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, and Sterling Heights.
  • Expanding the window to schedule appointments to 14 days. Go to the Schedule an Appointment page at Michigan.gov/UIA to make a phone, virtual, or in-person appointment at one of 12 Local Offices up to 14 days in advance.
  • Forming a coalition of thought leaders from the labor, business, and jobless advocate communities as part of the UIA Modernization Workgroup to provide insight on significant improvements in how the agency can better serve Michigan workers and employers.
  • Launching the Employer Help Center, a plain language guide answers employers’ questions on unemployment tax and claim issues and UIA programs. The innovative Help Center can be found at Michigan.gov/UIAEmployerHelpCenter.
  • Creating a Legal and Compliance Bureau to leverage collaborative anti-fraud practices to pursue bad actors who steal taxpayer money. 
  • Extending through 2024 nearly 80 limited term employees in the Fraud and Investigations Division.
  • Requiring new ethics and security clearance policies for employees and contractors.
  • Partnering with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, and local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to stop fraud. Since March 2020, 162 criminals have been charged with unemployment fraud, 91 have been convicted, and 72 sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution.
  • Scoring 100 percent for the third year in a row from the USDOL, meeting the reasonable assurance of quality benchmark for employer audits in 2022, 2021, and 2020.
  • Reassigning staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims contributing to the agency’s case backlogs.
  • Rebuilding the UI Trust Fund to more than $2.7 billion (and growing). Weekly benefits are paid to workers from the Trust Fund, which is supported by taxes on employers.
  • Halting overpayment collections on claims filed since March 1, 2020, while the agency addresses pending protests and appeals.

Need help or have questions about a claim?

Meet with an agent: Schedule an in-person, phone, or virtual meeting at Michigan.gov/UIA.

Chat with an agent: Log into your MiWAM account during normal business hours.

Call Customer Service: 1-866-500-0017 during normal business hours.

Ask Ava: Our chatbot at Michigan.gov/UIA can answer many questions.

Find answers: View FAQs, videos, toolkits, and other resources at Michigan.gov/UIA.


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