WILLIAMSTON, Mich. — Lloyd Blair qualified for the pandemic unemployment assistance in August.
Since then, the 60-year-old Williamston man has certified his weeks.
He hasn't receive any benefits from the state.
I've identified myself through the system several times and they just sent me another letter last week saying, 'Yes, you get it.' OK, well if I am able to get it, why haven't I got it?
He says he has called the Unemployment Insurance Agency office at his scheduled appointment times to try to figure out what is holding up payments.
"My next appointment is Monday where I will call and get the same answers I've gotten for nine months. It's got to go to a reviewer and that's the bottom line. They make no decisions," Blair said.
Lloyd is not alone when it comes to issues with the Unemployment Insurance Agency.
According to state data, there are roughly 30,000 people with unpaid claims.
Frances Altvater from St. Johns has been getting benefits from the state but is now being told she has to pay $855 back after they made the determination she was overpaid.
Altvater says they haven't given her an explanation as to why she has to pay back some benefits while also still receiving money from the agency.
Altvater received an email from the agency on Feb. 13 saying she received correspondence from them on her MiWAM account for monetary determination, re-determination and the weeks of overpayment.
"All three of those they claim is in my correspondence. I have screenshots of my MiWAM account that still shows absolutely nothing. The only letter that is in there is my letter showing that I qualified for the PEUC," Altvater said. "I think it's a scapegoat for unemployment to be able to say that they mailed me something when there's no proof that they did because I've yet to receive anything."
According to unemployment agency experts the UIA in Michigan is doing the best they can under the circumstances. At one point the UIA was receiving 300,000 claims each week and 200,000 calls each day.
"Even if they put every staff member they had on the phones they were still not going to be able to get those calls. So, they are really trying to pull off a herculean feat with that," said Rachael Kohl, director of the Workers Rights Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
Still, there are many who have unresolved issues.
"I've given up," Altvater said. "If they end up eventually contacting me, I've put the money back in the bank. I'm fortunate enough to be someone who has the ability to set that money aside if they come back on me to give it back to them if they can prove to me where. I have no clue how or why, but if they can show me why and how, then I can pay it back."
Kohl says there are hundreds of pages of legislation in place to prevent fraudulent activity.
"There's a lot of criminals out there that have actually stolen people's identities and filed claims .." Kohl said. "That has really clogged the system. So for the agency, trying to process claims that claimants are able to get the benefits they are entitled to they also have, I don't know how many imposter claims."
In a written statement, Lynda Robinson at the Unemployment Insurance Agency said, "Unfortunately there has been a delay in some claimants receiving unemployment benefits whose cases were in a queue for manager review. To date, cases that were in the manager review have received a either a determination of their benefit status or a request for more information. Customers should be sure to check their MiWAM account and respond to any requests for information they receive."
She added that there are "many reasons why some or all payments may be determined ineligible after initial approval or for a particular week – this may lead to the overpayment of any benefits paid. If a person disagrees with the determination of an overpayment, they should protest the determination."
Experts say if you are having trouble with your unemployment benefits, you should still contact the UIA office at (866) 500-0017. You should check your MiWAM account daily for any updates to your account even after you have stopped filing for benefits, and you should continue to send them messages as well.
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