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Opinion: No more excuses — fix unemployment now

Diana Farrington

The COVID-19 pandemic is something that none of us has seen in our lifetime. The personal pain of losing loved ones to the virus will leave a scar in our hearts and memories until it’s our turn to leave this life.

Social distancing and proper hygiene have helped flatten the curve and muted health system troubles. With that said, until a vaccine is found our lives will likely not return to normal, or the new normal — whatever that may be.  

Based on signals from the governor and others, there is a strong indication that many — if not most — businesses in Metro Detroit will not be returning to their former “full employment” in the coming weeks and perhaps months.   

Social distancing and proper hygiene have helped flatten the curve and muted health system troubles.

As a state representative, my office receives many calls and emails about situations my constituents are facing. Many are scared about family members that are health care workers not having proper personal protective equipment, or others being forced to return to work in an unsafe environment.

An equal number of people have said that they are being financially ruined by rules that make sense in some cases, but are arbitrary in other instances. Neither of those issues compare to the pure volume of calls and emails my office has received about an issue that state government controls entirely: our unemployment system.  

It’s a plea for the state government to get its act together and process unemployment claims for the many families that are hurting. Some are having trouble putting food on the table because they haven’t seen a single check since March 23 when the governor ordered businesses closed.  

A recent Michigan-based survey by the Glengariff Group showed that 54% of people who had been furloughed or laid off fear that they won’t be able to feed their families. Likewise, 52% in the survey who have filed for unemployment say they haven’t been successful or are unsure if they’ve been successful in filing through the unemployment process.  

There are three primary complaints:

► Claims that are approved and yet the recipient has not seen the money, even though it’s been over three weeks.

► The claimant receives a status pending notice, hasn’t received the money and has no ability to communicate with someone from the state to see what the delay is. This includes if the claimant made a mistake that needs to be rectified.

► Others are unable to access the MiWAM account at all, even after staying on the phone for hours on hold before getting disconnected.

These problems are unacceptable. While the governor previously blamed the Legislature for underfunding the unemployment office, her budget in this area was approved at the level she requested.

We all understand that the level of new claims  unprecedented, but whether it’s staffing resources, technology improvements or process changes, the time for excuses is over. People are counting on their government to follow through with promised resources so that they can feed their families. 

State Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica, serves Michigan's 30th district.