WUOMFM

Auchter's Art: Wrongfully accused of unemployment insurance fraud? Too bad.

Jul 14, 2017

We've all been caught in the grinder — whether it's government (the IRS saying you owe money for a property you never owned), business (the cable company charging you for a box you returned in 1997), or even a well meaning non-profit (you accidentally getting signed up with Pups That Poop —  a canine rescue for large dogs with bowel control issues — who now contact you every day to insist a Great Dane named Balthazar would be perfect for you and your studio apartment).

Through no obvious fault of your own, you managed to get slightly outside of the lines, and now you are in database hell. It is really one of the few common experiences these days that cuts across our political and socio-economic divides.

So it shouldn't be difficult to sympathize with the plight of an absurdly large number of Michiganders and their experience with unemployment benefits. If you are unaware of this issue, here's a Michigan Radio story from last week.

I'll summarize if you prefer to stay here:

In 2013, after Michigan began using an automated system to identify cases of unemployment insurance fraud, more than 20,000 people were wrongfully accused, with an error rate of 93%. Not only did these people not get their benefits, they were charged penalties in interest and fees and aggressively pursued for collections. Many of those without the time and financial resources to fight back got pulled into the grinder and spit out bankrupt. Some of those falsely accused filed a class action lawsuit in 2015 against the state. The lawsuit is currently in the Michigan Court of Claims and the Michigan Court of Appeals. Which brings us to last Friday at a hearing for the case. Deputy Attorney General Debbie Taylor, in arguing for the state, asked that the case be dismissed because, well, basically, because the victims had not followed the proper protocol to correct the situation. In other words, she seems to be treating this like a high stakes game of Simon Says (although she did allow that their destroyed finances were "unfortunate" — a super big help for paying bills).