Updating the progress of getting unemployment benefits to eligible Michiganders

1.6 million eligible applicants have filed for unemployment benefits in Michigan

Michigan has seen record unemployment numbers due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

LANSING, Mich. – The director of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency provided an update Wednesday on how close the state is to getting unemployment benefits to the many eligible Michiganders trying to navigate the system.

Navigating Michigan’s unemployment system has been difficult for many, as 1.6 million eligible applicants have filed for benefits.

UPDATE -- May 13, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 48,391; Death toll now at 4,714

That was the topic of the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) oversight committing Wednesday afternoon in Lansing.

Local 4 Consumer Investigator Hank Winchester has been digging into the problems with the system as Steve Gray, the head of the Unemployment Insurance Agency, testified.

READ: US unemployment surges to a Depression-era level of 14.7%

“Although we’ve been performing well, comparatively, there are still fixes that need to happen,” Gray said. “It’s now become clearer than ever that it can be hard to get unemployment benefits.”

While many looking for unemployment benefits have had trouble logging on or calling, this is viewed as an opportunity to look at the situation step by step. Was enough being done to prepare for the onslaught of people filing?

“In the last two months, historic volume has magnified areas where past decisions at the state and federal level have made it harder for some people to get benefits in a crisis,” Gray said. “On average, before this crisis, just 26% of unemployed workers in Michigan received unemployment benefits.”

More than a million people are still trying to get benefits, and many have had problems. One of the questions Wednesday was whether the UIA had enough time to prepare for this demand.

“I have no doubt that as soon as things were developing that we were kept in the loop and informed of it, but I don’t think anybody in the country had enough time, or even close to enough time, to prepare for this,” Gray said.

State leaders want to know what can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Officials also talked about new technology that could be rolled out soon, including an app that could make the process easier.

About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.