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Michigan unemployment offices to open for appointments Wednesday

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan unemployment claimants wishing to conduct their business in-person can go online Wednesday to make an appointment at 12 offices set to open June 30. 

The appointment-only system marks the first reopening of unemployment offices for in-person service since they closed in March 2020 amid an avalanche of claims tied to the government-ordered shutdown of businesses at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The more than 16-month closure was due to safety concerns as well as the belief that claimants can be better served over the phone. 

Appointments will be limited to 15-minute slots between 8:15 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be scheduled up to a week in advance, according to a statement from the agency. Walk-in services are not available. 

Signage on the door of the closed Unemployment Insurance Agency Detroit Problem Resolution office in the Cadillac Place building in Detroit on Feb. 11, 2021.

“This additional option for customer service is another avenue to assist Michigan residents in accessing the financial lifeline they need while they are recovering from a job loss,” said Liza Estlund Olson, acting director for the Unemployment Insurance Agency. 

The agency estimates it can serve about 900 people a day in-person, but will require residents to wear a mask, bring a photo ID and carry all documents related to their claim. 

People wishing to schedule an appointment should click on "Schedule an Appointment" at michigan.gov/uia. People also can seek help by calling the UIA customer service line at (866) 500-0017 or clicking "Chat with an Agent" through the Michigan Web Account Manager or MiWAM.

Estlund Olson told lawmakers in May that the agency planned to reopen its offices, but the announcement Wednesday moves up the timeline for reopening by about two weeks.

The reopening comes after a year of lawmakers lobbying for the offices to reopen to process some of the chronically delayed claims submitted to the agency. The state has been beset by low staffing and numerous fraudulent claims during the pandemic, with one audit estimating the amount of fraudulent claims totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

In some cases, claimants waited for months to get their unemployment claims processed and argued that in-person office meetings could help to solve some of the issues facing the processing of those claims. 

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped precipitously over the past year — peaking in April 2020 at 22.7% and reaching a new post-pandemic low in April 2021 of 4.9%.

The state has paid about $35.9 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.3 million claimants since March 15, 2020.