Unemployment offices reopen, but many claimants still frustrated

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/WLNS) — Twelve Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency offices reopened for in-person appointments Wednesday, greeted immediately by a flood of people who have been having trouble getting their state benefits during the pandemic-related shutdown.

It is the first time offices have been open to the public in about 15 months. While offices have been closed, clients have been served online or over the phone, but that hasn’t always worked well.

The office on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids took seven appointments every 20 minutes Wednesday. Some people were sent away because the slots filled up so fast. Others who got an appointment still left worried that they’ll never see a dime of their benefits. Still others heard good news but said they aren’t ready to celebrate until the cash turns up in their accounts.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency office on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids on June 30, 2021.

Alanya Foster was among those who got an appointment at the Plainfield office. She was working in child care when businesses started shutting down more than a year ago and says she has yet to get anything from the state.

“When I certified, they told me everything was successful. I thought I was going to get paid and then nothing was dropping into my account,” Foster said. “I’m like, OK, I’m in college, I don’t make a lot of money to begin with and I need to pay my bills and I’m not getting paid for it.”

She drove 45 minutes for the in-person appointment hoping the issue would be resolved, but it wasn’t Wednesday.

“I don’t know. It’s really hard not to give up,” she said. 

She feels fortunate that she doesn’t have a family to support like others who showed up Wednesday. 
 
One woman who News 8 spoke to came to the office hoping to catch an opening from a cancellation. No such luck. She said she has a 5-year-old and a newborn to support. She, like others, has been trying unsuccessfully to get help online and over the phone. When she tried to make an appointment this morning, they were all booked. The message said to try again next week. 

“Just keep trying, keep trying. That’s all I can do,” she said.

Those looking to get an in-person appointment will need to schedule it ahead of time online. No walk-up appointments will be accepted and those who arrive late may need to reschedule.

Scheduled appointments will begin at 8:15 a.m. and will last until 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Officials say there will be security on premises and doors will be locked; only those with proof of ID will be let in. Those with appointments should arrive only five minutes early to enter and have all their paperwork ready. Masks are required.

As cancellations happen, more appointments will be added online.

The agency said it planned to help serve around 900 customers in person Wednesday. It still encourages people to use its online and phone options if possible.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CUSTOMER SERVICE LINE:

  • CLAIMANTS; Call 1-866-500-0017 – Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • EMPLOYERS: Call 1-855-484-2636 – Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • If you need a Spanish-speaking representative, wait until you hear the option in Spanish. For all other languages, the customer service representative will connect you to a translator for assistance.
  • If you are hearing impaired, TTY service is available at 1-866-366-0004

Complete list of reopening offices:

  • Benton Harbor, 401 8th St.
  • Detroit, 3024 W. Grand Blvd., Suite L-385
  • Gaylord, 931 Otsego Ave.
  • Grand Rapids, 3391-A Plainfield Ave., NE
  • Kalamazoo, 1600 South Burdick St.
  • Lansing, 5217 Perry Robinson Circle
  • Marquette, 1498 Odovero Drive, Ste. 2
  • Muskegon, 2700 Baker St.
  • Saginaw, 515 N. Washington Ave
  • Sault Ste. Marie, 1118 East Easterday Ave.
  • Sterling Heights, 43015 Hayes Road
  • Traverse City, 1209 S. Garfield Ave., Ste. C

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