New websites to assist with unemployment claims, coronavirus struggles

By Sen. Rick Outman
33rd Senate District

As the coronavirus swept across the state beginning in mid-March, Michigan residents found themselves facing a pandemic deadlier than any other in their lifetime.

The numbers of those sick and dying grew, and by June 11 there were 59,496 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide and 5,737 death. The virus has left heartache in its wake and altered the lives of too many Michigan families.

Beyond the physical toll left by COVID-19 is suffering of another kind. The state shutdown in response to the virus has led to more than a million residents losing their jobs and thousands of businesses closing.

Unfortunately, the Whitmer administration has not handled well the corresponding surge in unemployment claims. The increased volume to both the online and phone systems has caused delays in filing claims and having questions answered.

Many of my constituents have shared their horror stories of trying to navigate the poorly performing Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) system. Newly unemployed residents need to be able to access the funds due to them to continue taking care of their families. The last thing they need is to be stopped by a UIA roadblock.

To make matters worse, a staggering 340,000 filers approved for unemployment benefits in the state are being investigated for fraud as part of an international criminal ring exploiting unemployment programs across the nation. This has added further delays to the claims process.

Michigan’s unemployment system woes have added insult to injury for those who have found themselves facing the pandemic and out of a job.

As the senator representing the 33rd District, I want to help constituents having trouble with their unemployment assistance claims.

To help those who are unable to obtain the assistance they need from the UIA, I recently added an online tool to my website, where anyone from the 33rd Senate District can submit a request for me to assist them in communicating with the UIA about their claim.

If you need help with an unemployment claim, please visit my website and fill out the “Unemployment Assistance” form. It can be found on my website’s homepage or at www.SenatorRickOutman.com/unemployment-assistance/. Input your information, and my staff or I will contact you.

You can also contact my office at 517-373-3760 or via email at [email protected] if you need assistance with your claim.

My colleagues in the House and Senate have also started a website to hear from Michiganders who are having a difficult time in an effort to connect with families as we look toward our needs for the future.

The interactive new webpage allows you to share your experiences and struggles during this ongoing public health crisis. Please visit www.MiCovidStory.com to share your experiences.

Have you been having trouble getting unemployment benefits? Have you lost a loved one at a nursing home? What do you think of the governor’s stay-home orders?

We want to hear from you. Although Gov. Whitmer doesn’t seem to be listening to the people of Michigan, we are here to be your voice at the state Capitol. The people deserve to be heard.

If you need any assistance, please contact me. I remain committed to serving you and the district as we work together to see ourselves through these extraordinary times.

NOTE: Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus, including specific details on the governor’s active executive orders. Additional information can be found at CDC.gov/Coronavirus. For those who have questions about the state’s actions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, please call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

Sen. Rick Outman represents the 33rd state Senate District, which includes the counties of Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta and Montcalm.