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New UIA Claimant Roadmap provides clear guidance to filing for jobless benefits
August 10, 2023
Innovative resource distills process down to 6 easy-to-understand steps
Workers have a new resource from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) that explains in six easy-to-follow steps everything they need to know about filing for and receiving jobless benefits while they search for work. The UIA’s new Claimant Roadmap applies user-focused design principles and clear language to create a useful online tool to ease the filing process.
The roadmap – available on Michigan.gov/UIA – answers questions, clarifies instructions, and eliminates confusion. Its steps guide users through benefits eligibility, how to apply, correspondence from the UIA, and how to certify for benefits while claimants search for work.
“Before the pandemic, I hadn't touched, looked into, or even thought about unemployment. So, when we were laid off, I was all over the place,” said an unemployed worker interviewed during the roadmap development process who wishes to remain anonymous. “I had to Google ‘How to access Michigan Unemployment.’ It was difficult because there was no instruction. I wasn’t sure how to access it. This new roadmap would be my go-to page. It takes a lot of the pain and grunt work out of somebody having to navigate the process.”
The UIA worked with Detroit-based Civilla, a nonprofit design studio, to apply field tested design principles in conjunction with input from claimants and jobless navigators to create a step-by-step walkthrough of the unemployment process.
"The roadmap was designed with our customers in mind," said Julia Dale, director of the UIA. “We’ve received a lot of feedback on the process of applying for jobless benefits, and how confusing it can be. This Claimant Roadmap consolidates in one place all the information people need to know to file and maintain their claim. This resource will provide clarity and take some of the stress out of filing, as well as make it easier for all workers to access our program.”
The Claimant Roadmap is a cornerstone of Director Dale’s modernization reforms at the UIA, which include installing a new computer system, providing exemplary customer service, aggressively fighting fraud, and launching an equity initiative to reach workers who traditionally have had difficulty applying for jobless benefits.
“We have witnessed the steadfast commitment of Julia Dale and her team at UIA,” said Michael Brennan, CEO of Civilla. “They have worked to create efficient solutions that remove barriers and effectively address the challenges faced by Michigan residents. Civilla is extremely proud to partner with UIA on work that will make a lasting impact for claimants throughout Michigan.”
How the roadmap simplifies filing for benefits
Civilla used comprehensive research, user testing feedback, and input from the public and UIA staff to help UIA design a simple guide that provides clear instructions to help jobless workers know when and how to take action on their claim, and includes information to support a user’s immediate needs.
The claimant roadmap, found at Michigan.gov/UIAClaimantRoadmap:
- Uses easy-to-understand, plain language that banishes jargon and legalese.
- Combines in one place information that was previously found on multiple webpages.
- Features a design that online users are accustomed to seeing as they track their progress.
- Provides pop-up information that allows users to dig deeper into issues as they go through the filing process.
The agency is also working with Civilla to apply user-focused design principles to create an Employer Help Center that answers questions, clarifies instructions, and eliminates confusion. The Employer Help Center will be available on the UIA website later this year.
The help center and roadmap are being developed in conjunction with an initiative led by Civilla to rethink how to simplify the wording used in letters sent to workers and employers. The letters will also be redesigned to highlight important information and next steps to make it clear to recipients what’s expected of them.
Director leads agency modernization
Implementing a clear and concise approach to communications with customers is part of Director Dale’s transformation of the Michigan UIA into a national model for fast, fair, and fraud-free service. Key elements of her agency modernization include:
- Creating the UIA Modernization Workgroup, consisting of labor, business and jobless advocates to advise the UIA on significant improvements in how it can better serve Michigan workers and employers.
- Identifying initiatives to ease access to jobless benefits for workers in underserved communities under a $6.8 million equity grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).
- Securing a more than $2.3 million equitable access and communications grant from the USDOL Tiger Teams initiative to redesign and simplify how UIA engages with employers and develop a help center for accessing agency services.
- Naming a Legal Advisor and created the Legal and Compliance Bureau to leverage collaborative anti-fraud practices for pursuing bad actors.
- Revamping the agency’s public website at Michigan.gov/UIA so it is more user-friendly and responsive for those accessing services using cell phones or tablets.
Reforms initiated throughout agency
Since being named in October 2021 to lead the UIA, Director Dale – the agency's 11th director in as many years – has also:
- 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. To date, 158 individuals have been arrested or charged in connection with unemployment benefits fraud, 79 have been convicted, and 47 sentenced for their crimes.
- Reassigned staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims that are contributing to the agency’s case backlogs.
- Rebuilt to more than $2.3 billion (and growing) the UI Trust Fund from which weekly benefits are paid to workers.
- Approved more than 76,000 overpayment waivers (with more to come) of state and federal benefits paid out during the global pandemic, waiving more than $555 million.
- Halted overpayment collections on claims filed since March 1, 2020, while the agency addresses pending protests and appeals. More than $13 million was refunded to workers since May 2022.
- Implemented new ethics and security clearance policies for employees and contractors.
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