Economy
3:46 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Michigan unemployment agency's computer, phone systems get $69M upgrade

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency is undergoing a $69 million computer and phone system upgrade, reports MLive. The agency says the upgrade will cause interruptions in service.

These fixes come after criticism of the system from advocates for the unemployed. In June, Michigan Radio's reported on user dissatisfaction, especially with MARVIN (Michigan's Automated Response Voice Interactive Network) .

If workers aren't able to certify every two weeks that they still qualify for benefits, that can lead to a delay in getting unemployment checks - or being denied benefits altogether.

Amy Tilchen is with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project. She says the state's unemployment agency also isn't training its customer service employees very well.

"They don't always know the answers, or their policies, or the law, especially after the changes last year," she said.

MLive reports that the upgraded system could fix these problems:

An upgraded system should improve customer service, heighten security and privacy, and enhance system maintenance and support, according to [UIA] spokeswoman Chawn Greene-Farmer. It also should help the agency process claims faster.

The Michigan UIA website says MARVIN and the Claimant Portal will be unavailable from 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 9 through 7:00 a.m. on Aug. 13.

The project is paid for by federal Recovery Act funding, which has already granted or loaned the state $8.8 billion, according to the federal recovery website.

The state's unemployment rate ticked up again in June to 8.6 percent, which could mean more people are actively seeking employment, and therefore newly considered "unemployed."

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom