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Director of state unemployment agency says it's working to get benefits out

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Legislators grilled the head of the Unemployment Insurance Agency about why some people still are not receiving benefits. Steve Gray, director of the agency, gave a short presentation about how it is dealing with the 1.7 million applications for benefits that have been filed since March 15. He said the huge onslaught of applications overwhelmed the capabilities of the agency. It’s been scrambling to meet the demand, and he added it is performing better than most other states' agencies.

“I understand that is of little consolation to those who have yet to receive payments. I want to assure you we will not rest until everyone who is entitled to benefits receives them,” Gray told the lawmakers.

The legislators also wanted to know whether Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down businesses caused an unnecessary crisis and what the agency could have done to prepare for it. Gray stressed the governor’s main concern was the COVID-19 pandemic and public health. As for what they could have done to prepare, Gray said it happened too fast to have done anything.

“It hit us like lightning,” he said.

About eight percent of applicants, 134,000 people, are still waiting for their applications to be reviewed because there are disputed issues.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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