Opinion | It’s time for Michigan to fix our broken unemployment system

Adam Hollier

Adam Hollier is a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate, representing the 2nd district. (Photo courtesy of David Olds, Michigan Senate Democrats)

For far too long, Michiganders have been forced to jump through hoops to receive the unemployment benefits they deserve. The fact is, our unemployment system simply has too many barriers and hurdles for those out of work. It’s time we fix that. 

More than 1.7 million Michigan workers have filed for unemployment benefits since March, and many of them are still waiting to receive their benefits. For many others, there has been a significant delay between the time they filed their claims and when they received their first check. This is a needless hardship inflicted on the people who least deserve it and it’s just wrong. 

We know the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed overwhelmed our outdated system almost immediately due to the sheer number of people filing for benefits. While the pandemic was out of anyone’s control, years of Republican neglect and attacks on the unemployment system made a bad situation far worse. 

Now, with the economic crisis in full bloom, the outdated policies and burdensome rules that are causing excessive delays and putting up obstacles for Michigan families need to be scrapped.   

That’s why I joined my colleagues in the House to announce a plan to fix the broken system once and for all. There are several common-sense policies we should adopt now to help streamline the unemployment benefit process so Michiganders can receive their benefits in a timely fashion. 

Currently, we look at a person’s last three employers to determine eligibility. This causes significant delays. We need to change this arcane policy so only the most recent employer is reviewed. 

In addition, problems with confirming an individual’s identity can hold up much-needed benefits for far longer than necessary. We must streamline the process for confirming a person’s identity once they file for benefits and allow any flagged claims to be resolved in a timely manner. 

We need to expand and extend unemployment benefits to bring Michigan in line with other states instead of being a laggard. We also need to make structural changes to our unemployment system to accommodate our state’s growing gig-worker economy. 

Lastly, we need to fund additional resources to help crack down on fraud and abuse and improve cybersecurity to protect the personal information of families who have been traumatized by this sudden economic downturn. 

Right now, we have a broken system that is failing to support our hardworking residents when they need it the most. 

People across Michigan are crying out for help. That’s why we need to fix these outdated rules and burdensome requirements that are bogging down the system and adding to the woes of so many Michigan families.  

Every day a person who has lost his or her job has to wait is a day that pushes them closer to the brink. I urge my Republican colleagues to hold hearings and call for votes on this important plan before it’s too late. The hardworking men and women across Michigan who have lost jobs through no fault of their own are counting on us.

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