LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - After nearly a year of effort from a stakeholder workgroup and bipartisan collaboration on legislation, Gov. Rick Snyder today signed into law six bills that will change the Unemployment Insurance Agency’s (UIA) approach to flagging fraud in the system, as well improve identify theft protections for Michiganders and expand the advocacy program at the agency to allow for better representation.
“I appreciate all the work of the Legislature and the Unemployment Insurance Agency, as well as the claimant and employer communities in coming up with solutions to modernize the statewide unemployment system,” Snyder said. “The new system will be fairer to those who apply for unemployment benefits, and will protect the personal information of both claimants and employees of the companies that pay into the system.
“Everyone worked diligently together to solve these problems, rather than just criticize the agency, and that’s the approach we will continue in 2018 as we further address any problems created by the automated fraud system.”
Wanda M. Stokes, Director of the Talent Investment Agency, said: "The changes involved in this unemployment legislation have been a priority for us and I’m very excited to start the implementation. Unemployment Insurance will be able to provide better service to the public thanks to this legislation. I look forward to working with the Legislature again in 2018 on fraud and other important unemployment insurance issues."
• House Bill 5165, sponsored by Rep. Joe Graves, improves identity theft protections within UIA, including allowing the agency to immediately cease paying benefits when it receives an affidavit from a person with a stolen identity and a corroborating report from his or her employer. It is now Public Act 225 of 2017.
• HB 5166, sponsored by Rep. Curtis Hertel, reduces fraud penalties, removing the $500 threshold in the structure, reducing the first offense penalty from 200 percent of the claim to 100 percent, and changing the 400 percent penalty for a subsequent offense to 150 percent. It is now PA 226 of 2017.
• HB 5167, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Byrd, expands the UIA advocacy program to allow representation of claimants or employers accused of fraud. If the agency or a court ultimately finds the claimant or employer did commit fraud, it will attempt to recover the cost of that representation. The bill is now PA 227 of 2017.
• HB 5168, sponsored by Rep. Diana Farrington, requires that an individual applying for unemployment benefits provide a driver’s license number, state identification number or other copies of acceptable documents allowed by federal law as a means of establishing their identity, in addition to their Social Security Number. The bill is now PA 228 of 2017.
• HB 5169, sponsored by Rep. Beau LaFave, prevents the UIA from charging interest on benefit overpayments that were the result of administrative or clerical error by the agency. It is now PA 229 of 2017.
• HB 5170, sponsored by Rep. Joe Bellino, modifies the consequences of an employer’s failure to provide timely or adequate information to the UIA. It is now PA 230 of 2017.
• HB 5171, sponsored by Rep. Phil Phelps, allows a claimant to quality for a waiver of repayment of benefits if their average net household income and assets are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. It is now PA 231 of 2017.
• HB 5172, sponsored by Rep. Martin Howrylak, requires the UIA to reconsider a previous decision on benefits if evidence shows the previous decision was sent to a bad address. It is now PA 232 of 2017.
In addition to the work group that developed the framework for the legislation, the agency also consulted with the U.S. Department of Labor during the drafting process to ensure compliance with federal law. Each of the bills were approved unanimously in both chambers.
For more information on this and other legislation, please visit www.legislature.mi.gov.