LANSING, Mich. — Senate Oversight Committee Chairman Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, issued the following statement Friday, after a recent state auditor general report found the Unemployment Insurance Agency revealed the agency distributed $3. 9 billion in unauthorized benefits to nearly 350,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Tens of thousands of hardworking Michigan residents were forced out of their jobs last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders and were legitimately, if not reluctantly, forced to seek unemployment assistance as they struggled to provide for their families during an incredibly difficult time. It is unconscionable that the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, which exists solely to help unemployed workers, failed so spectacularly despite explicit guidance and warnings from the federal Department of Labor.
“While Michigan families struggled to get their cases filed or checks received, billions were doled out fraudulently to the undeserving because of the gross incompetence at the agency. What’s worse, the audit revealed the agency consciously decided to do this, and even went so far as to falsify the unemployment rate by claiming it was over a full percent less than it really was — all while knowing the likely consequences of its egregious actions and despite assurances from before the pandemic that it was ready for any crisis that may arise.
“Additionally, in the last several weeks, we have not received any answer or guidance from the agency as to whether those who have been fired or forced out of work over COVID-19 vaccine mandates will qualify for benefits they rightfully earned. It’s infuriating that the auditor general report shows the agency freely chose to take on the risk of paying the ineligible last year but can’t make a ruling for people who are out of work now.
“I appreciate Auditor General Doug Ringler and his staff for conducting such a thorough and illuminating audit of the UIA. The Senate and House oversight committees will be holding a joint hearing in the near future to learn more about what happened and to address the longstanding structural problems that exist within the agency to ensure something like this never happens again.”