Over 1 million Michigan workers have found themselves without a job as the coronavirus has taken our state’s economy by storm and devastated businesses in communities across the state.
The state made businesses close their doors and made a promise to those who were forced out of work that they would receive benefits to take care of their families.
Yet weeks passed by without people receiving their benefits or even as much as a phone call, letter or email notifying them of an issue or their status. For months, my office has been helping folks who are fed up with spending hours trying to get what was promised to them and have nowhere else to turn.
The overwhelming traffic to Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) system should have come as no surprise after the governor’s various executive orders essentially shut down the state. However, the governor and agency director did nothing, even after weeks of documented issues, to assist with the influx of cases as more and more people lost their jobs.
I understand the frustrations of those who have tried to navigate this system. I have voiced my own frustrations with the administration’s poor, untimely response to the overwhelming number of new claims that have been filed.
I personally sent the governor a letter to express my frustration with automatically enrolling over 31,000 state employees into an unemployment system that was not meeting the needs of Michigan residents. Her plan prioritized state employees over everyone else. It furloughed these employees for one day per week, partially replaced their lost wages with state unemployment benefits and provided them with the additional $600 per week in federal pandemic unemployment assistance.
While I appreciate the governor working to save the state money, it was a short-sighted plan that further burdened an already inept system. It was a serious lapse in judgment, and the people of Michigan deserve better.
The agency has worked to institute additional fraud protections, streamlined their services, extended hours and made other reforms to speed up the system. I do want to commend the staff who have been working to help people get their benefits — but I think the state can and should be doing more.
That is why I supported funding and authored language that would use federal relief funds to hire more temporary workers to assist with quickly getting claims processed and solved and getting people their money. We can certainly do better than a several-weeks-long approval process, and the measures I supported would help get us to that point.
The coronavirus outbreak has affected families, schools, local governments and businesses across the country. In Michigan, businesses have closed their doors, people have lost their jobs and state revenues are down, but my colleagues and I remain committed to getting the state back on its feet.
Michiganders have repeatedly shown their resilience in the face of adversity and we will continue facing this challenge head on.
As always, feel free to contact my office at 517-373-1635 or at [email protected] if you have questions. If you are still having issues with the unemployment office, contact me with your full name; claim number or Letter ID number; phone number; address; and a brief description of the issue you are experiencing. My staff and I are happy to help.
Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.