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State labor, economic director resigns for private sector

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The director of Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, who oversaw the beleaguered Unemployment Insurance Agency, is leaving the department for the private sector. 

Jeff Donofrio, State of Michigan director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity answers a question.

Director Jeff Donofrio, who has served in his position since June 2019, will leave the state to lead Business Leaders for Michigan. He'll succeed Doug Rothwell, a former economic development official under Republican former Gov. John Engler.

He will be replaced immediately by Susan Corbin, senior deputy director and a state employee during the past three administrations. Donofrio will advise the department for an unspecified period of time. 

“Jeff has been a true champion for Michigan businesses and working families during one of the toughest periods in our state’s history," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Friday statement. 

Susan Corbin

Donofrio said he was thankful for the opportunity for public service. 

“Even as we’ve battled the worst public health crisis in a century, I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve accomplished together to expand career and skills training opportunities for adults in our state through Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect," Donofrio said. 

A group of legislators in June called for leadership changes at the Unemployment Insurance Agency when the agency struggled to process thousands of unemployment claims at the height of the pandemic. 

The avalanche of claims caused significant delays in processing and payments from the Unemployment Insurance Agency, a problem that was complicated by an onslaught of fraudulent claims. 

Two state employees have been charged for attempting to defraud the unemployment system.

Between March 15 and Sept. 2, the state has paid out $21.9 billion in benefits to more than 2.1 million workers as pandemic-induced closures forced many out of work and into the unemployment  system. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com