State Rep. Ann Bollin today joined House Speaker Jason Wentworth in calling for the removal of Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Liza Estlund Olson.
Estlund Olson was appointed as director 10 months ago by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after the previous leader resigned amid criticism and failure. Things have not gotten any better at the UIA under Estlund Olson’s direction.
Bollin, of Brighton Township, said it’s time for the governor to give the troubled agency new leadership and a new direction.
“The unemployment agency is riddled with problems that have gone on for months with no resolution,” Bollin said. “This agency has repeatedly let the people of Michigan down, and there has been no accountability. It’s time for the governor to fix this and find a new director who can help the people who have been struggling with the agency for far too long.”
Michigan’s unemployment agency has been a constant source of problems for residents during the COVID pandemic. In 2020, the agency paid out millions in fraudulent claims, delayed payments for months to tens of thousands of real Michigan residents, and allowed politically connected state employees to skip the line past hard-working families trying to make ends meet. Under Director Estlund Olson, things have not gotten better. Recent instances of mismanagement include the following:
- UIA failed a federal monitoring report last winter and has still not fixed the problems that were uncovered eight months later. Director Estlund Olson skipped the meeting with the auditors where UIA was informed of its failures.
- UIA knowingly gave out benefits to ineligible recipients for months, and then sewed fear and confusion by sending 700,000 people a letter raising the possibility of back payments.
- UIA knowingly denied benefits to thousands of people who deserved help rather than update its software.
- UIA refused to hand over information regarding the back payment letters to the House Oversight Committee. The mistake was only brought to light when a third party gave the information to the committee’s chair, Rep. Steve Johnson.
- UIA repeatedly blamed multiple failures over the past year and a half on its software and a third-party vendor, including the failed website workers needed to use to apply for benefits. UIA and the governor quietly extended its contract with that vendor for another year earlier this week.
- UIA still has a backlog of 20,000 unpaid Michigan workers, 18 months into the pandemic and 10 months into Director Estlund Olson’s tenure.
- UIA waited 15 months to open any offices for in-person appointments, creating barriers for Michigan residents without reliable internet access and older workers trying to get help. To date, the agency has still only opened some of its offices for limited appointments statewide.
“Enough is enough,” Bollin said. “When is the governor going to hold her appointee accountable? It was troubling enough when the economic shutdown put so many people out of work and forced them to turn to unemployment. It’s even more unacceptable that so many of our friends and neighbors are still dealing with this agency’s failures months later.”
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