By BRUCE WALKER
THE CENTER SQUARE REGIONAL EDITOR
(The Center Square) — An outside audit has uncovered the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency paid approximately $8.5 billion in fraudulent claims since March 2020.
The Deloitte audit results were announced Wednesday, one month after the Michigan Auditor General reported the UIA erroneously remitted nearly $4 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program paid from the federally funded Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Some of the $4 billion blunder was attributed to UIA’s erroneous application of eligibility criteria, and, according to the Detroit News, the UIA claims an unspecified amount of that number may have been counted in the fraudulent claims uncovered by the Deloitte audit.
The UIA has been under fire since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Former UIA Director Steve Gray resigned in November 2020 and received a $85,872 severance package, which was sealed with a confidentiality agreement regarding his job performance and departure.
“The UIA and the billions they have paid out in fraudulent claims is a massive hit to taxpayers and the credibility of our government under (Gov.) Gretchen Whitmer,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said. “After this $8.5 billion failure, it is hard to believe that Whitmer is capable of getting her state departments back on track.”
State Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, chairs the Michigan House Oversight Committee, which has repeatedly questioned UIA leadership. Johnson lays the blame for the UIA’s audit results on Gov. Whitmer.
“The Whitmer Administration has continued to show incompetence and disrespect for the taxpayers they serve,” Johnson said in a statement. “The Whitmer Administration should be ashamed that they lost over $10 billion in taxpayer money under their ‘leadership’ and demand that Steve Gray pay back his $85,000 hush fund buyout.”
Rep. Johnson announced the committee he chairs will conduct a joint hearing with the Senate Oversight Committee to investigate UIA improprieties.
“This is absolutely unacceptable to the taxpayers of Michigan and there should be consequences for this level of gross mismanagement, but alas, if the Whitmer Administration is consistent on anything, there will be no accountability,” he said.