Letter: Unemployment agency should learn from Domino's Pizza
August was a hard month for many of us.
Here are the words of a local Owosso Facebook friend on Aug. 3: “In addition to my newfound unemployment, my wife and I are expecting our first child, a baby girl, and my employer-provided housing was going away. I felt like a failure as a husband.”
Then, I was sad to see my friend post this on Aug. 17 after his announcement of job loss: “Michigan unemployment is an absolute mess! I've called nearly every day, multiple times per day, for the past month, as well as attempting to use the online chat feature, and have gotten through on one phone call and my issue is still not resolved. They have provided literally zero help after maybe 100 attempts to contact them."
I checked in with him on Sept. 1, and there was still no movement, no correspondence, nothing.
In Lansing, Michigan’s Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic recently has been investigating the issue, stating that “The UIA has told our committee that problems are being taken care of, but I regularly hear from people who had to wait eight or 10 weeks for a response from the agency about their claims, and even longer for their situation to be resolved." The state created a portal for lawmakers to help residents who are facing extraordinary hardships, but this is not a fix.
Last year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer boldly placed Steve Gray, a leading claimant advocate, as head of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Gray had previously exposed a false fraud scandal in the unemployment system that led to court orders and legislative reforms. But our governor is finding out that you can’t just put the right people into a broken system and expect it to be fixed. Now, with the pandemic, more than 2.5 million claims have been filed since mid-March, and our hugely underfunded Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is struggling.
We need to have dramatic help and fast. Here is a radical idea — work with Domino’s Pizza to help. Their website and app can track your order, tell you the status of the making of the pizza, who is making the pizza, when it's out of the oven, when it's in the delivery car and who is dropping it off and when. This is what our applicants for unemployment need: communication, status updates and tracking.
Just food for thought.
Andrea Garrison, Owosso
Democratic candidate for Michigan
state representative, District 85