U.S. Department of Labor Awards Michigan Jobless Agency $6.7 Million Equity Grant

Inside DMV, people standing in line
by Scott McClallen


The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency a $6.7 million grant to improve access to workers in underserved communities.

The grant aims to reach workers who have historically had difficulties applying for benefits, such as rural and urban areas with limited internet access and those with language barriers.

The DOL grant will allow UIA to launch four initiatives:

  • Track customer data to identify and address equity issues.
  • Conduct new claimant orientation seminars geared toward covering issues such as unemployment basics, filing claims, eligibility, protests and appeals, and how to remain eligible for benefits or avoid nonmonetary issues.
  • Translate correspondence to jobless workers and online resources to address the needs of those who do not speak English as their primary language or have visual disabilities.
  • Create new partnerships with community, faith-based, or cultural organizations that help the unemployed throughout Michigan. UIA will also provide liaisons to assist with unemployment-related issues.

UIA Director Julia Dale welcomed the funding.

“This grant will shatter barriers that many Michiganders encounter when they apply for unemployment insurance benefits after losing their jobs,” Dale said in a statement. “It is important that we serve all residents across our diverse state by easing the benefits application process and confronting and resolving every community’s unique challenges. Navigating the benefits application can be difficult, and historically has prevented some Michiganders from seeking benefits at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable to personal financial hardship.”

The DOL’s equity grants to Michigan and 24 other states seek to remove barriers related to race, age, ethnicity, language proficiency, disability status, geographic location, or other issues from those seeking jobless benefits.

The UIA is attempting to rebrand to a customer-focused entity after the agency struggled to provide timely benefits to Michiganders, hired convicted felons to disburse benefits, and likely lost between $8 billion and $11 billion to fraud over the past few years. More than 17 UIA employees also conspired to defraud taxpayers.

The UIA has paid over $39 billion in benefits to more than 3.3 million workers since March 15, 2020, with over 99% of eligible claimants receiving benefits. However, more than two years later, many Michiganders are still appealing whether they owe the UIA for agency overpayments of as much as $15,000.

The UIA has forgiven $484.2 million on 62,200 claims thus far this year and has waived more than $4.35 billion from more than 407,300 claims since July 2021.

The agency is working to replace its decade-old computer system with a new user-friendly interface. The agency also has revamped its website for those accessing it from a mobile phone or tablet.

Since October 2021, when Dale was appointed director, the UIA has:

  • Reassigned staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims that are contributing to the agency’s case backlog.
  • Implemented new ethics and security clearance policies for employees and contractors.
  • Collaborated with the attorney general’s office as well as local, state and federal law enforcement to bring bad actors to justice and combat fraud at the agency.
  • Rebuilt the UI Trust Fund to nearly $1.8 billion from which weekly benefits are paid to workers who lose their job through no fault of their own.

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Waiting in line” by Jay Cross CC 2.0.



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