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UIA unveils innovative Employer Help Center for Michigan businesses
February 05, 2024
Online resource has plain language, clean design, information about accounts, reports, and programs
An innovative resource that provides answers to employers on unemployment tax and claim issues is available from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) starting today. The new Employer Help Center is a one-stop online toolkit that uses plain language and clean design to answer employer questions and explain UIA programs.
Employers can access the new resource at Michigan.gov/UIAEmployerHelpCenter.
“The Employer Help Center will make it easier for employers of all sizes to understand their unemployment insurance responsibilities and learn about UIA programs that help businesses succeed,” UIA Director Julia Dale said. “This forward-thinking resource has been user tested by Michigan employers, who told us they are eager to use and share the tool. Especially popular is the use of plain language and clean design that saves time searching for the information they need.”
There are six categories in the Employer Help Center that empower employers to easily navigate UIA resources:
- Register Your Business: Also, how to authorize an account with UIA.
- Manage Employee Claims: How to handle disputes, fraud, and appeals.
- Submit Reports and Payments: How to keep up with tax rates, quarterly reporting, and payments.
- Manage Account Settings: Set notifications, update business info, and add users.
- Explore FAQs and Resources: Answers to common questions, helpful definitions, forms, and instructional resources.
- Contact UIA: Contact the Office of Employer Ombudsman (OEO) and other areas within UIA to address problems.
Individual sections feature a left-hand navigation menu of related topic areas so users can easily find the information they need. There also is a handy search function.
The Employer Help Center was developed in partnership with Civilla, a Detroit nonprofit design studio, along with input from the business community. Collaborative discussions between Director Dale, Civilla, and employers identified a need for a convenient, all-in-one resource center. The center should clearly explain an employer’s unemployment insurance responsibilities to support a state program that pays benefits to workers who lose a job through no fault of their own and increase awareness of the many staffing programs and resources UIA offers to employers.
Civilla’s research included multiple focus group discussions with 58 small, medium, and large employers as well as third-party administrators. Nearly 60 UIA staff from multiple UIA divisions and agency leadership provided insight during key aspects of the development process.
Employers involved in the development of the Employer Help Center were granted anonymity throughout the research and responded enthusiastically after seeing the finished resource: “Before, I would scroll down a couple of pages, and say ‘forget it.’ This seems much more helpful. Where I need to go for my questions is clear. That’s really nice.” Added another: “I think it’s everything you need, and it’s digestible. … It looks good, and it’s easily understood.”
UIA’s partnership with Civilla also resulted in the UIA Claimant Roadmap, a six-step resource guide that uses simple language to explain how to apply for and understand unemployment benefits. Since its launch in August 2023, the UIA Claimant Roadmap is the most-popular resource on the UIA’s website, with more than 336,000 views. It can be found at Michigan.gov/UIAClaimantRoadmap.
Customer service improvements
The Claimant Roadmap is the basis for another recently launched, popular resource provided by the UIA for claimants. First-time Filer Coaching Sessions are available Tuesdays through Fridays and are led by UIA instructors who explain the correct process to follow when submitting a claim. In the five months since the online instruction Sessions were launched, more than 1,600 people have signed up for a session. Register at Michigan.gov/UIA.
UIA is designing its new computer system to replace its current MiDAS/MiWAM system used by claimants to file for benefits and employers to pay unemployment taxes. MiDAS/MiWAM uses older 2010 technology that doesn’t meet today’s and future needs. The new system, expected to be fully operational in 2025, will incorporate an updated design with robust anti-fraud measures for efficient claims filing and tax processing.
Fulfilling the UIA’s goal of providing exemplary customer service, the agency has extended the number of days available to schedule appointments. Claimants can now book appointments 14 days in advance to meet with trained, professional staff about their claims. Appointments can be made in person at any of UIA’s 12 Local Offices around Michigan, by phone, or virtually. Claimants can also use the Chat With An Agent feature through MiWAM to reach the UIA.
UIA staff are embedded in 10 regions across Michigan as part of the UIA Community Connect program. This program provides hands-on expertise to employers and workers about how to navigate the unemployment insurance application process. Liaisons also connect workers and employers to UIA’s outreach and education resources.
Changes also have been made to the UIA’s Advocacy Program with the addition of new advocates to help claimants and employers. Pay for advocates has also been increased by 30 percent. The Advocacy Program provides free legal advice to workers and employers who appeal UIA redeterminations on claims.
Director transforms the UIA
The Employer Help Center, UIA Claimant Roadmap, and a new computer system are three cornerstones of Director Dale’s sweeping modernization of the UIA into a national model for fast, fair, and fraud-free service.
The UIA has hired 30 new limited term employees with the help of a $2,609,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). The new staff will support the agency’s aggressive efforts to pursue bad actors and recover federal and state money stolen from taxpayers. The unemployment insurance examiners and regulation agents will work in UIA’s Fraud and Investigations Division.
Their work will be aided by the appointment of a UIA Legal Advisor to lead the agency's Legal and Compliance Bureau to leverage collaborative anti-fraud practices in pursuing bad actors. To date, 162 people have been charged, 91 convicted, and 71 sentenced. Working with the state Department of Attorney General, federal prosecutors, and local law enforcement, the UIA puts fraudsters on notice: If you steal money meant for Michigan workers and paid by Michigan businesses, you will be found and prosecuted.
Other reforms under Director Dale
- Launching the UIA Modernization Workgroup, with representatives from labor, the business community and jobless advocates, to advise the agency on significant improvements in how it can better serve Michigan workers and employers.
- Redesigning letters to employers and claimants using a human-centered approach to make the correspondence easier to understand with less jargon.
- Scoring 100 percent for the third year in a row from the USDOL for employer audits, meeting the reasonable assurance of quality benchmark in 2022, 2021, and 2020.
- Reassigning staff and resources to address the largest categories of claims that are contributing to the agency’s case backlogs.
- Revamping the agency’s public website at Michigan.gov/UIA to be more user-friendly and responsive for those accessing services using cell phones or tablets.
- Rebuilding the UI Trust Fund to more than $2.3 billion (and growing), from which weekly benefits are paid to workers.
- Approving more than 76,000 overpayment waivers (with more to come) of state and federal benefits paid during the global pandemic, waiving more than $555 million.
- Halting overpayment collections on claims filed since March 1, 2020, while the agency addresses pending protests and appeals. More than $13 million has been refunded to workers since May 2022.
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