LANSING, Mich. – Following the naming of a new leadership team by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Talent Investment Agency – Unemployment Insurance has completed a top-to-bottom review of operations, customer service standards and fraud determination cases.
The agency has made comprehensive changes to Unemployment Insurance to correct the problems and ensure residents get benefits quickly and accurately. In addition, the agency is in the process of refunding more than $20.8 million to residents who had fraud determinations reversed because of the reviews.
“We took action after a hard look at every aspect of Unemployment Insurance, fixing the problems with guidance from national experts, people who use our system and our own staff who work with our residents each day,” said TIA Director Wanda M. Stokes. “Our top priority is helping our state residents, making sure they are treated fairly and get the benefits they need during a stressful time. Our initial focus was on a painstaking review of all the cases in question so we have the clearest picture of what we have to do to make things right and restore public trust in the system.”
Stokes said many people are helping the agency, and she appreciates the efforts of U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, the state Legislature and others who called attention to problems the system has encountered.
Gov. Snyder appointed Stokes in 2016 to direct TIA and address the agency’s challenges. Stokes quickly started to implement changes, including bringing on Michelle Beebe, the former director of Utah’s top-performing unemployment insurance program, to lead TIA-UI.
“My approach moving forward is to focus on the problems and fix them, not to place blame or take credit,” Beebe said. “We are improving communication, enhancing program integrity, strengthening service delivery, and making for a quicker return to employment for people who have lost their jobs.”
TIA-UI also has completed a review of all cases between October 2013 and August 2015 where fraud was alleged, focusing on whether a claimant was overpaid benefits, and, if so, determining whether there was an attempt to commit fraud. These cases represent 49,910 people. Individuals may have more than one case.
A portion of these cases were previously questioned and resolved through the appeals process. A total of 4,955 cases for which fraud was assessed during this time period were resolved through appeals.
TIA-UI has reviewed 62,784 cases for which people were assessed a fraud penalty and did not seek an appeal. Of those cases, 40,195 were originally resolved by way of computer program based on available information. As part of the review, 85 percent of these original fraud findings were reversed. The other 22,589 cases of the original 62,784 were initiated by computer program and then referred to an investigator for further review or action. As part of the latest review, 44 percent of these fraud findings were reversed.
Cases that go through the appeals process often have additional facts presented in a hearing that were previously not provided to the agency. Outside of this review project, for the 12-month period ending September 2016, administrative law judges either reversed or modified the agency’s decision on 41 percent of all cases.
For most of the reversals during this latest review, residents received benefits to which they were not entitled, but did not intend to commit fraud. In other cases, the employer reported quarterly wages to the agency, with the agency later discovering that those wages were not actually earned during the weeks the person filed for unemployment benefits.