Michigan paid out over $3.3 billion in pandemic unemployment cash to people who lacked any work history in the state, the Washington Times reports.
According to a new audit, officials intentionally shut down anti-fraud safeguards in order to rapidly disperse the payments, and now, the state is coming up on the deadline to recover overpayments, says Michigan’s auditor general.
In the newly-released audit, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) is portrayed as “bungling its way through the early days of the pandemic, rushing to get money out the door with little regard for the crush of bogus claims that flooded in alongside legitimate ones,” per the Washington Times.
The Washington Times reports:
“UIA’s director at the time urged staffers “not to find fraud against claimants.”
The director also told them not to question applicants who claimed they had been self-employed, auditors said, citing emails they obtained during the investigation. Fraud investigators were taken off the job and assigned to process new claims.
And the agency’s automated fraud detection system was intentionally disabled, the audit found. It no longer weeded out applications filed from blacklisted internet addresses or those coming from outside the state.
The result was faster payments but also massive potential fraud.
In a random sampling of 60 claims, auditors found a third of them showed suspicious assertions of self-employment that should have been followed up.”
According to the Times’ report, numerous states similarly bungled unemployment payments during the pandemic by prioritizing speed over protocol.
This made scamming states such as Michigan and California very easy for individuals who took advantage of the system, analysts say.
The Detroit News reports that Julia Dale, the current director of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, insisted that the agency is making progress in solving its issues.
Friday, Dale spoke to reporters, saying, “We are doing this again and again and again.”
“And at what point do we say we have addressed these issues, we have demonstrated our commitment to righting past wrongs and we’ve been transparent about the actions we’ve taken? Why do we keep revisiting matters?
Dale can be seen posing between other members of Michigan’s embattled UIA at a recent Detroit Chamber policy conference in the tweet below.
If you’re attending the @DetroitChamber Policy Conference please stop by the #UIA table to learn more about #workshare and other employer programs.#DPC23 pic.twitter.com/0BAyZlSWOy
— Julia Dale (@TheJuliaDale) January 10, 2023