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Official says jobless benefits snafu was “perfect storm” of problems

unemployement insurance form on a clipboard
Vitalii Vodolazskyi
Adobe Stock

The director of the state unemployment agency appeared Wednesday before a joint House and Senate committee.

He answered questions about a backlog in resolving unemployment claims.

Agency director Steve Gray said so many people filed for unemployment that it also jammed the programs to protect against fraud.

He said that created opportunities for identity thieves.

“And so, we’ve had to make adjustments to our system, and that’s one of the reasons why we put the additional identity checks in place.”

Gray said other states have seen the same type of ramp up in attempted fraudulent claims.

Gray told the committee that created opportunities for people who’ve been collecting stolen identity information.

“These are criminals that have been planning this for years, and are taking advantage of, you know, the ‘perfect storm.’”

Gray promised the backlog in challenged claims filed before May will be cleared by the July Fourth weekend.

He says more than 11,800 people who are waiting will either be paid or told their claim’s been denied. 

Republican Senator Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township) said her office has been flooded with complaints.

“I mean, we can’t continue to wait and see and, you know, I can get my hair cut. I can go to a restaurant now. We’ve been going to the grocery store. What? What? Something needs to be done today.”

LaSata asked when unemployment offices will be open for in-person visits. 

Gray said plans are underway, but he also said telephone and online interactions typically take less time.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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