GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency now has a new portal where lawmakers can check on your claims for you.
It lets politicians log-in, put in someone’s name and claim number, and look up the status.
But some lawmakers say it’s not doing enough.
“Why can’t somebody at least reply to me on what the issue is,” said Denise Kern of Madison Heights.
She filed for unemployment back in March and has been waiting 10 weeks to get her money.
“I sit on the phone on a daily basis trying to call them. I sit on their chat line, from what I understand now that doesn’t work,” she said.
Denise even took out a loan and reached out to others to pay her bills.
“In the last couple weeks, I borrowed some money from a family member because I have no food,” she told FOX 17 during a recent Zoom call.
She also takes care of her mother and the stress of not having money often keeps her up at night.
“It’s all I think about. I lay my head down and I’m thinking ‘ok, will tomorrow be the day I actually get an answer?’”
After emailing Fox 17, I told her about a new portal available to state reps and senators. She then reached out to her local lawmaker for help, but was told an answer would likely take another two weeks.
“I know I’m only one person, but I have no money.”
This is the log-in page for the “Centralized Response Team Inquiry System.”
We cannot take you inside because of sensitive personal information, but some lawmakers say there’s not much to see anyway.
“I mean it’s really not that sophisticated, it’s basically your address, phone number, case number, was it assigned to somebody, not assigned to somebody,” said state representative Mark Huizenga.
He was part of the pilot program. At least that’s what a state employee recently told the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I got a text from the chairman that night that said ‘hey how come you didn’t tell me about the portal you have there that you’re doing the pilot on’ and I said not sure what you’re talking about.”
It wasn’t until after that committee hearing he even got a log-in.
“Late that night, several hours after the committee completed, they sent through a log-in and password so that tells you the thing wasn’t even in operation at that time,” said Huizenga.
The portal, he says, is basically a shared spreadsheet. He told me it does have value since it can track things, but he doesn’t think it’s the solution people need.
“When I think about a portal, I think about access to my bank account where you can see the details where you can show what my deposits were some granular detail. It wasn’t that at all, in fact all it is is a glorified tracking system.”
“UIA is even failing us as legislators and legislative offices,” said state representative Sarah Lightner.
She covers Jackson, Eaton and Lenawee Counties. Her office has put in more than 100 claims into this new system.
“Not one of those has been assigned yet,” she said.
She says the Unemployment Insurance Agency is just not responding.
“You know I really hear stories literally every single day of these people who are struggling and for goodness sakes they can’t even take back cans and bottles right now.”
When they get questions about claims, representatives and senators work together copying each other on emails so issues aren’t duplicated in their district.
“We need to hold the governor accountable for the promises she made to the people of Michigan,” said Lightner. “We are living on failed promises. That promise might come someday but someday doesn’t keep you fed and keep you in your home.”
Those who are struggling and now reaching out to lawmakers, like Denise, just want answers.
“If I can’t prove who I am, your offices aren’t open, help me figure out a way how I can do this,” she said, “because I’m at a loss.”