Reforms to state unemployment system will protect jobless residents, combat fraud

Bipartisan plan will restore integrity, improve accountability
Thursday, October 19, 2017

LANSING — State Rep. Joe Graves (R-Argentine Township), chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), minority vice chair of the committee, today announced much-needed reforms to fix Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The bipartisan legislation is based on findings of a workgroup consisting of legislators and experts. The plan will improve the unemployment system’s claim process, protect claimants with overpayment situations and combat fraud.

“This group included members of both parties, advocates for those wrongly accused and industry experts who all worked extremely hard to find real-world solutions to improve our state’s unemployment system,” said Graves. “We spent almost 900 hours working to make sure we restore integrity and improve accountability in the system. I look forward to continuing our commitment to Michigan’s unemployed and getting these bills signed into law.”

“In recent years, it has become apparent that our unemployment system is not working for both claimants and employers,” said Hertel. “I am proud of the bipartisan work that has been done to make the system more fair, and I look forward to continuing conversations with my colleagues to ensure these issues are resolved.”

The proposal will address identity theft claims by creating a “watchdog” position to investigate fraud and make recommendations to improve the system. The plan also allows employers and employees to sign an affidavit together stating a claim is a result of identity theft. In addition, the legislation remains tough on fraud and requires additional proof of identification from claimants when applying for benefits.

The legislation also:

  • Ensures claimants don’t get charged interest on overpayments due to agency failure;

  • Gives those accused of fraud access to an advocacy program;

  • Allows the reopening of a fraud case by the agency within three years with good cause;

  • Improves the process for determining the validity of an unemployment claim; and

  • Clarifies the eligibility for hardship waivers and the agency’s process for ruling on applications for a waiver.