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UIA Clean Up Bills Sent To Governor

December 20, 2017

An attempt to correct operational flaws at the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) in the wake of their faulty fraud alert system moved out of the Senate unanimously Wednesday and headed to the Governor for his expected signature.

The package was prompted by a debacle in which the agency falsely accused and assessed fines against thousands of unemployment benefit recipients.

The House-originated package of eight bills (HB 5165 through HB 5172) scales back penalties for those who improperly collect UIA benefits and creates measures that would more quickly halt payments to identity thieves caught trying to scam the system.

“This legislation is a great bipartisan effort to help improve the unemployment insurance operations on a number of important issues both for the general public and employers,” said Wanda Stokes, director of the Talent Investment Agency, 

In a press release, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber applauded the legislation as “a great bipartisan effort,” while also taking rhetorical swipes at both the Gov. Rick Snyder administration and Attorney General Bill Schuette. 

“This is a big win for Michigan’s working families,” Bieber said. “These important bills will make much-needed changes to improve the UIA, and give a helping hand to working people who have lost a job through no fault of their own, so they can continue to support their families while they search for work and get back on their feet. 

“These bills are by no means comprehensive, nor are they perfect,” Bieber continued. “Indeed, there is still more work that must be done to make things right for people who were falsely accused of unemployment fraud by Governor Snyder’s administration, and maliciously challenged in court by Attorney General Bill Schuette. However, this bipartisan legislation will go a long way towards preventing another disaster like this from happening again.” 

Rep. Joe Graves (R-Argentine Twp.) and Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) shepherded the bills through the House. 

Another bill sponsor, Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy), called the legislation “landmark reforms.” 

“It speaks volumes that this legislation passed unanimously in both the House and Senate,” Howrylak said. “These landmark reforms will significantly enhance the quality of service provided by the UIA and I look forward to this package being signed into law by the Governor.” 

Reps. Wendell Byrd (D-Detroit), Diana Farrington (R-Utica), Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), Joe Bellino R-Monroe) and Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) also are in line for Public Acts for having sponsored a bill in the package. 

The bills create a new identity theft verification structure within the UIA that have new checks to verify that those who are applying for unemployment benefits are legit. They create an advocacy program for the accused, stop the UIA from being able to charge interest when the state overpays someone, cuts down on the penalties from 400 percent to 100 percent and create some waivers for economic hardships.  

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