January 12, 2022
January 12, 2022
When Gov. Whitmer began deeming which businesses and jobs were and were not essential in March of 2020, unemployment shot up to 23.6 percent, creating an avalanche of jobless claims for a woefully unprepared Unemployment Insurance Agency. Michiganders were calling the UIA 60 times in a single day to get a hold of an agent and get the ball rolling on a process that could take months before receiving any benefits. Senior leadership at the UIA responded by adopting reckless policies that opened up the agency to fraudulent attacks in May of 2020. The federal government warned Michigan officials that their over-lenient policies could lead to more significant issues down the road. The Detroit News reported:
“In the email to then-Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Steve Gray and others, Adams warned states that the Office of Inspector General had “significant interest” in the way PUA was implemented. He asked the states to inform the Department of Labor about their PUA implementation plans so the department could correct any problems “before they become larger issues.”
Instead of heeding the warning from the federal government, under the leadership of Whitmer’s hand-picked appointee Steve Gray, the UIA proceeded with the same policies leading to a massive influx of undetected fraud. In January, the Department of Labor came down hard on Whitmer and the failed UIA and ordered them to review the qualifications for roughly 600,000 claimants. The Detroit News continued:
Eight months later, in January, federal officials chided the Whitmer administration after a review of Michigan’s program for developing unapproved qualifications. The Department of Labor directed the state to reassess the qualifications of about 600,000 people who had received benefits under the unapproved eligibility criteria.
When the DOL directed the state to reassess 600,000 claims at the beginning of 2021, the UIA again failed Michiganders by waiting an additional six months before notifying beneficiaries. Once the UIA finally sent out the letters in July, they threatened 648,000 Michigan residents stating they may have to repay a large some due to the mistakes of the Whitmer administration.
The Office of the Auditor General released its performance audit report on the UIA in November of 2021, and Michiganders learned the full extent of how much in relief dollars the UIA lost. That included $3.9 billion awarded to ineligible claimants due to failing to follow several federal guidelines for the PUA program. MLive reports:
“The Auditor General found that the agency’s overpayments from March 2020 through August 2021 were the result of several pieces of criteria that weren’t authorized under the federal CARES Act, which included the PUA program.”
Then, during the holidays, the Whitmer administration quietly conceded that the UIA lost an additional $8.51 billion to fraudulent claims. Recent estimates suggest Whitmer is underselling the amount lost, and the actual number is around $11 billion. For perspective, there are 4.76 million workers in the state of Michigan. Taking the $11 billion wasted by the UIA, it would break down to $2,310.92 per working Michigander.
“Between ineligible claims and fraud, estimates show that the UIA has lost a total of $15 billion in taxpayer dollars,” said Eric Ventimiglia, Executive Director for Michigan Rising Action. Ventimiglia continued, “Over the past two years, the UIA has had a complete breakdown under the leadership of Gretchen Whitmer. From waiting months to receive benefits to wasting $11 billion, the UIA has failed every single Michigander.”