Rep. Hall, Sens. Nesbitt and McBroom: With UIA engulfed in customer service struggles and costly fraud, Auditor General must investigate
In an effort to improve service for unemployed Michiganders, keep residents’ personal information safe and stop costly fraud, three state legislators are calling for the Auditor General’s Office to look into how the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) processes claims and handles security and staffing procedures.
Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic Chair Matt Hall (R-Marshall), Vice-Chair Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) and Senate Oversight Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) have sent a letter to Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler asking him to perform a series of performance audits to comprehensively review the UIA. The request comes as the agency has repeatedly failed Michiganders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost 2.5 million people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic and resulting executive orders began, and there have been many instances of UIA claiming citizens had been helped when they were not. Additionally, there is a criminal investigation involving a multi-million dollar fraud case and serious concerns about UIA’s potentially inadequate security protocols.
“Michigan residents who lost jobs through no fault of their own deserve an efficient unemployment system so they can provide basic needs for their families. Unfortunately, there have been massive delays and terrible customer service experiences for numerous citizens. The Unemployment Insurance Agency repeatedly touts having fixed problems, only for us to discover these bureaucratic blunders continue, so the Auditor General needs to investigate in order for state government to be better prepared in the future,” Nesbitt said.
Many citizens report tremendous difficulty communicating with UIA. In addition, a former state employee who was charged in July with committing $2 million in unemployment insurance fraud continued to have access to her state-provided computer after her termination and there is concern about further fraud.
“The Unemployment Insurance Agency’s communication has been severely lacking, particularly with people who lost their jobs and needed a paycheck to feed their family and pay their bills,” Hall said. “The UIA has told our committee that problems are being taken care of, but I regularly hear from people who had to wait eight or 10 weeks for a response from the agency about their claims, and even longer for their situation to be resolved.”
“We call on the Auditor General to investigate how the Unemployment Insurance Agency processes claims, as well as the effectiveness of fraud detection tools, how new employees are hired and the agency’s procedures for dealing with discharged employees. An independent audit will reveal whether UIA has actually fixed the problems it claims it has. The people deserve an unemployment agency that provides good customer service for struggling families and takes smart actions to stop fraud,” Hall added.
“Oversight is a critical role of the Legislature – especially in times of crisis,” said McBroom. “I commend my colleagues in both the Senate and House for their work on the joint select committee to hold Gov. Whitmer’s administration and departments accountable to the people who lost their jobs. I am hopeful the Auditor General can look into these matters to ensure Michigan is better prepared for future unemployment emergencies.”
Senate Concurrent Resolution 29, introduced by Senator Aric Nesbitt, called for a financial and performance audit of the Unemployment Insurance Agency. It passed the Senate unanimously on June 25th.