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MARVIN needs a tune-up, say unemployed workers

Advocates for the unemployed say the state has some big problems with its unemployment system.

Amy Tilchen is with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project.

She says many people complain they can't get through to the state's automated telephone certification system, nicknamed "MARVIN." 

That's short for Michigan's Automated Response Voice Interactive Network... 

If workers aren't able to certify every two weeks that they still qualify for benefits, that can lead to a delay in getting unemployment checks - or being denied benefits altogether.

Tilchen says the state's unemployment agency also isn't training its customer service employees very well.

"They don't always know the answers, or their policies, or the law, especially after the changes last year," she said.

About 800,000 people are unemployed in Michigan, although not all of them qualify for unemployment benefits.

State officials say they're not aware of any technological issues that would prevent claimants from accessing MARVIN to certify for benefits.

They also say they've worked tirelessly to make sure staff are properly trained. 

People can also make unemployment claims online, and there are fewer complaints about that method.

But Tilchen says many unemployed people do not have access to the Internet, and they're stuck with MARVIN.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.