Free Press Discusses UIA Fraud with PMP&R's Lord

From the Detroit Free Press LANSING, MI Months after Grand Rapids resident Jonna Ferguson stopped collecting unemployment in the mail, she got a letter saying she owned the state $20,000. "Opening a letter that says that I had defrauded the state of Michigan, it was shocking. It was like 'what did I do, I must have done something wrong,'" Ferguson said. She was laid off when Corinthian Colleges shut down the Everest Institute in Grand Rapids. She spent a few months collecting unemployment and looking for a job, and when she found one promptly notified the state and stopped collecting unemployment. But a state computer system flagged her case as possibly fraudulent. It sent messages to her online account through the state's unemployment system, but with no notification via phone or email. When she didn't respond, the computer system decided she was defrauding the state and mailed her fines. Ferguson's case isn't unique. According to a report from the Office of the Auditor General, that same computer system issued 60,324 determinations finding intentional misrepresentation by unemployment recipients. The computer system doing that flagging is the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System, or MiDAS. Implemented in 2013, it was supposed to help the state's Unemployment Insurance Agency be more efficient in a number of areas, including determining fraud. But MiDAS was only sending notifications to online accounts that in many cases people were no longer using. Jennifer Lord, a partner with Royal Oakbased Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers law firm, specializes in employment law. She became aware of the change because people contacted her law firm. "Prior to 2012, 2013 we would get maybe one client a year that was having some sort of an issue with their unemployment. And then all of a sudden we started seeing this influx of clients," Lord said. Read the Entire Story Here

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