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Michigan unemployment agency says it's made decisions on claims filed before May 1

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency says it met its Saturday goal for making determinations on unpaid jobless claims filed before May 1.

In a Monday press release, the agency, which has experienced record filings during the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the state's economy, set a new goal of July 20 for clearing its remaining backlog of claims filed by June 1.

"While there is only small percentage of eligible workers who have yet to be paid, we know that is no consolation to the thousands of claimants who are frustrated, desperate and owed the benefits they were promised,” said Steve Gray, director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency. "We will not rest until the claims backlog is eliminated and all eligible Michigan workers get every single dollar they are entitled to."

A graphic from Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency explains a new process through which the state is asking people to file claims on different days of the week based on their last names. The process is meant to help deal with the high demand for unemployment benefits.

Since March 15 — five days after the state confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 — about 2.1 million people have applied for state and federal unemployment benefits with more than $15 billion being paid out, according to the agency. Benefits have been paid to 97% of eligible workers, according to the agency.

Of the unpaid claimants, fewer than 39,000 "have yet to be resolved and are being held for additional identity verification," a press release said. About 20,000 others' claims are held for other reasons.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency has faced criticism from lawmakers during the pandemic as the volume of claims overwhelmed its online system and some residents seeking jobless benefits waited months for assistance.

A group of 20 lawmakers — 19 Republicans and one Democrat — asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for a leadership change at the agency in June.

Gray apologized for the state's unemployment website in April and has said the agency is "basically fixing the airplane as we go to make it more user friendly and we’re adding hundreds of thousands of new passengers as we go."