Waiver good but keep digging | News, Sports, Jobs


Sometimes it’s what isn’t said that grabs attention.

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance agency announced last week that more than 55,000 claimants will not have to repay about $431 million in federal pandemic unemployment benefits – overpayment benefits that the agency had previously determined to have been wrongly awarded.

Not said : “previously determined to have been erroneously awarded” — by the UIA.

Overall, the finger pointing comes after the relief of the 55,000 people left in limbo after losing their jobs in the pandemic and then being spat at with coffee from shock when the UIA realized its error and made initial overtures to recover the funds.

Claimants who had already repaid their $11 million overpayment will receive refunds, the announcement read.

Fraud claims will not get a waiver, he adds, and the agency will continue to “vigorously pursue the restitution” of all stolen benefits.

While it’s reassuring that we don’t waive fraud claims, what remains unanswered is how the issues got so far.

We have a little insight into a former UIA worker who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He told investigators he earned between $50 and $150 for each false claim he endorsed, estimating between $500,000 and $1.5 million in agency losses, according to Click On Detroit reports.

This is consistent with the Auditor General’s March report which found that UIA officials failed to ensure contractors were liable for $3.8 million in fraud committed by their employees.

The UIA failed to conduct background checks on 5,500 part-timers hired in response to the mountain of claims fueled by the pandemic, and that some had previous misdemeanor and felony convictions, including armed robbery , embezzlement and identity theft.

The report also revealed that some of those employees were still working at the agency.

Previous inspections found the agency had made about $8.5 billion in abusive payments.

That’s a lot of mistake money.

Now, what’s being said rings a bell – relief for people who tried to play by the rules, plus low unemployment to boot.

But we urge the UIA to continue digging into its systems, to root out the problems that have plagued it for more than a decade. There is still a lot to say.

– The Traverse City Eagle of Records

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