Michigan workers endure another glitch in unemployment's computer system
The Michigan government website used by jobless workers to file and certify claims stopped working on Monday, one day after the state emailed long-term unemployed workers directions on how to extend their benefits.
Instead of being allowed to reactivate accounts or certify that their layoffs continue, workers were met with a blank screen as they tried to navigate from the Unemployment Insurance Agency system into the system known as MILogin, run by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).
“MiLogin is experiencing slowness today causing many users the inability to connect,” said Caleb Buhs, spokesperson for the DTMB.
The issue started Monday morning, and by 5:30 p.m. no cause had been identified. Also undetermined was when it will be fixed or how many workers were shut out of the system.
“Our team is fully engaged to identify and resolve the problem,” Buhs said. “Once the cause is known, we will be able to estimate a timeline for returning service to normal.”
While the system problem rests with DTMB, it follows nearly a year of complaints with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) due to logjams and other problems – including massive fraud attempts – that delayed benefits payments to jobless workers during the pandemic. The system was crushed with applicants starting in March as coronavirus-related layoffs began. UIA said 3.12 million people filed claims during the pandemic, with $28.1 billion paid out.
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Many of the people who waited months for payments as UIA was overwhelmed with applicants now find themselves wondering once again if their next payments could be in jeopardy.
“I've been trying to get in since 9:30 this morning. This is ridiculous,” wrote Mary Cruickshank-Peed of Calumet on the DTMB’s Facebook page shortly after 4:30 p.m. She’d been trying to help her son, an unemployed chef, obtain his benefits. She later said he got through at about 7:30 p.m.
“This is unprofessional,” she told Bridge Michigan. “They've had a month to deal with this.”
Jobless benefits expired on December 26, along with the federal CARES ACT for workers who filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program or who’d exhausted their extended benefits. However, under the Continued Assistance Act, federal funding was approved to extend both programs. As part of that law, an additional $300 will be added to weekly benefits for payouts from January through March 14.
Michigan started signups for extended benefits and PUA claims – which include part-time, self-employed and gig workers – in mid-January.
At that time, the UIA announced that it was “still in the process of programming new system changes necessary to begin additional payments … The target date to complete these changes for the remaining PEUC and PUA claimants is Jan. 30, 2021.”
Unclear is whether those changes are related to the slowdowns in the DTMB system, which also services other programs for the public, including renewing vehicle registrations, registering for the MI Bridges food assistance program and searching for a job through Pure Michigan Talent Connect.
Buhs said those systems also were affected by the system issues, “but not to the level experienced by unemployment customers.”
At the end of January, UIA was paying 529,753 active unemployment claims. Unclear is how many others remain eligible, but haven’t yet gotten into the system.
Jason Moon, spokesperson for UIA, said people who’ve already filed or certified their continuing unemployment should still see their money on the regular schedule.
“It won’t affect the processing of payments,” Moon said.
The slowdown happened less than one day after emails were sent by UIA telling long-term jobless residents that they now may qualify for the benefits extension.
“We appreciate their patience,” Moon said of the jobless workers caught in the system problem. “Hopefully the system will be up and running at full speed soon and everyone will receive the benefits they’re entitled to.”
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