GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite progress in eliminating the state’s unemployment backlog, a couple in Sparta says their claim has gone unanswered since early April.
Last week, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency reported fulfilling or approving more than 97% of claims filed since mid-March.
“Currently, less than 39,000 unpaid claims have yet to be resolved and are being held for additional identity verification while only around 20,000 unpaid claims are held pending adjudication for other reasons,” a July 6 press release stated.
Carol Simons says her husband’s claim is among the 3% still in limbo, even though it was filed months ago. She estimates they are owed about $5,000.
Calling the UIA is her only option to resolve the problem because of an error in the login associated with their online account.
“I just get automated messages saying, ‘Please call back, we have a high call volume right now,’ or ‘I’m sorry you’ll have to do it through the website,'” Simons told News 8. “It is frustrating.”
Her husband Mike works in construction. He was off work for six weeks during the shutdown. She took over dealing with the state once he went back to work because she has been working from home.
At the beginning of April, the agency sent a letter denying the claim.
“I got a denial letter stating that they show no wages for my husband for the past year and a half,” Simons explained, saying that was not right — he has held the same job for 17 years. “They asked me to fill a form out, which I did, and they also asked me to send in all of the check stubs from the last year and a quarter, which I did. I sent them everything. I mailed it because it was too much to fax and that was over two months ago.”
The state told News 8 individual claims can’t be discussed without an authorization form signed by the claimant, but did send the following response Monday afternoon:
“While we can’t comment on specific claims, our July 4th goal was related to making a determination on unpaid claims filed before May 1, if the claimant was reachable after multiple attempts.
“This does not mean that all claimants are paid, as in some cases our determination is that they are not presently eligible. Recently a number of claimants were provided an explanation that a determination was made against them, and that they have now filed a protest.
“Claimants have the ability to protest if they disagree. A limited number of claimants still need to provide information to establish their eligibility, and we were unable to reach them after multiple attempts.”
The UIA says that since March 15, it has gotten about 2.1 million eligible claims for benefits and paid out some $15 billion to more than 2 million of those.
“In making a determination, the UIA will pay out benefits, determine that the claimant is ineligible and communicate why, or deem the claimant unreachable after multiple attempts to make contact,” the statement continued, explaining how the agency tackles claims.
“For eligible unpaid claimants, the agency will make attempts to contact them if needed. There remains a path for individuals to protest any determination made by the agency on their claim.”
Simons said she and her husband have been able to get by without the unemployment benefits but the current loss is nothing to “sneeze at.”
“We’re still trying to play catch-up a little bit,” she said.