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UIA recruiting advocates to help workers, employers at jobless claims hearings
September 08, 2023
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) is recruiting advocates to provide free legal advice to workers and employers and represent them at hearings about unemployment benefits claims.
The UIA is looking to expand its Advocacy Program, which offers no-cost consultations and representation at hearings scheduled with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR). Advocates are not required to be attorneys.
“Having an advocate is important because we know that the unemployment appeals process can be intimidating for both employers and workers,” said UIA Director Julia Dale. “Advocates are essential in helping customers by acting as an important guide through the hearing process.”
Claimants and employers who qualify for services through the Advocacy Program can choose from approved advocates across the state to help with their hearings.
What you need to know to become an advocate
- Qualifications: You must be knowledgeable in unemployment law, but you don't have to be an attorney.
- Candidates must take a test: In-person test will take place at Cadillac Place in Detroit on Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or Thursday, Sept. 21, from 1:30-4:00 p.m.
- Registering for the test: Deadline to register to take the test is Wednesday, Sept. 13; use this link: https://www.research.net/r/H7G2JSC.
- Advocates are paid for each case: Advocates currently earn $100 per initial consultation. They are independent contractors, not UIA employees, and will receive an IRS Form 1099 at the end of each year.
- If you have questions: You can contact the UIA’s Advocacy Unit at UIAAdvocacy@Michigan.gov.
- For more information: See the Advocacy Program webpage at Michigan.gov/UIA.
Since the Advocacy program was started in 1991, advocates have provided free legal aid to nearly 260,000 people.
Director leads modernization agenda at UIA
The Advocacy Program is one of many UIA resources to address the needs of Michigan’s workers and employers. New tools designed to simplify navigating the unemployment process have recently been launched:
- The UIA Community Connect program: a program that partners UIA with local groups to provide guidance for workers from underserved groups who have faced barriers when filing for jobless benefits.
- The Claimant Roadmap:An easy-to-follow, user-friendly six step guide to applying for understanding benefits.
- First-time filer coaching sessions: Online, web-based guidance from UIA staff who will walk users through the steps needed to complete an application and qualify for payments.
More information about these and other resources can be found at Michigan.gov/UIA.
Impactful changes improving user experience
Helping customers by providing exemplary customer service 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:
- Planning the replacement of the decade-old MiWAM computer system used by workers to apply for benefits and employers to pay unemployment insurance taxes. The new system will provide significant programming flexibility in response to quickly changing economic conditions. It is expected to be fully operational in early 2025.
- 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 creating 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.
Other reforms initiated throughout the 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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