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Some families face paying back money to state that's already been spent on household bills and food

Michigan UIA
Some workers who received benefits are being told they have to pay back months of benefits. Their only options are to pay or to protest the decision. Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency has an online page to begin the process.

Thousands of people who received federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are being told they have to pay that money back.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency told some people they were eligible to receive payments, but the state used the wrong criteria.

The agency indicates there were several problems in the rush to get money to the unprecedented number of people who filed claims.

“Our staff was doing the best that they could and work, you know, long hours and overtime to try to get through a lot of those cases. But we did have an unprecedented number of cases that we needed to go through,” said Nick Assendelft, Director of Communications for the agency.

Assendelft says eligibility criteria mistakes were only part of the problem. He says the agency is also working with an information technology system that’s almost ten years old.

“And hopefully, you know, with the end of the federal pandemic claims and we’re able to take a look at some of those and hopefully, you know, within a few years when we get a new system, some of this will be alleviated.”

But right now, families face paying back money that’s already been spent on months of household bills.

Someone who received the demand for repayment can appeal and plead their case before an administrative law judge.

This is the most recent foul up by the Unemployment Insurance Agency. Tens of thousands of people who filed for unemployment benefits between 2013 and 2015 were wrongly accused of fraud. That was blamed on software, but the result was financial disaster for some families.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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