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 Mary Rossi, right, of Shelby Township, was permanently laid off due to COVID-19 at the end of May. She is yet to receive unemployment pay and said it’s frustrating not being able to get through to somebody from Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Mary Rossi, right, of Shelby Township, was permanently laid off due to COVID-19 at the end of May. She is yet to receive unemployment pay and said it’s frustrating not being able to get through to somebody from Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Gathering addresses unemployment benefit concerns

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 7, 2020

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — For several months, questions and frustrations have abounded regarding collecting unemployment benefits from the state of Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 40 people attended a June 29 gathering at Waldenburg Park in Macomb Township, hosted by state Sen. Michael MacDonald, a Republican who represents Michigan’s 10th District’s area of Macomb Township, parts of Clinton Township and Sterling Heights. The event addressed Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, or UIA, and complications Michigan residents have experienced with the system.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor revealed that Michigan’s unemployment rate peaked at 24% in April. That was up nearly 20% from March. Over 1.1 million Michiganders were unemployed in April.

MacDonald said the most common concern he hears from residents is how they aren’t receiving unemployment benefit payments.

“As their representative, I have to be the solution,” he said. “If they can’t get through the bureaucracy and the red tape, I have to do it for them.”

Many of those who attended are having problems contacting the agency and collecting unemployment benefits.

Macomb Township resident Kimberly Rinaldi attended on behalf of her aunt who filed for unemployment at the end of March and is yet to receive a payment.  

“It has taken a toll on her mentally and physically,” Rinaldi said. “It’s awful. It’s a difficult place to be. You have no answers and are wondering what will happen.”

She said her aunt was able to speak with a UIA worker once via phone in mid-April.

“They said there was a problem because of her age; they didn’t believe she was still working so we had to go to a doctor’s office and prove that she was still able to work,” Rinaldi said. “All we’re asking for is the benefit payment, nothing more than what she is supposed to get.”

From a state legislator perspective, MacDonald said UIA is overwhelmed and wasn’t prepared.

“The state should’ve been prepared if they were going to shut down businesses,” he said. “There’s issues with UIA that need to be fixed.”   

Mary Rossi, of Shelby Township, was permanently laid off due to COVID-19 at the end of May.

She formerly worked for a company which deals with health care, retirement and annuities for trade unions, and like Rinaldi’s aunt, hasn’t received unemployment pay.

“I know it’s not a normal time because we’re going through COVID, but it’s very frustrating not being able to get through to somebody,” Rossi said. “If you know you can receive an email response, or talk to someone in-person, you’d at least know you have something to work with. I’d like a better avenue to get some answers.”   

Rossi filed online, which she said wasn’t an issue, but hasn’t been able to reach anyone on the phone.

Additionally, information regarding new auto insurance reform was discussed as part of the event.

Last year, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed no-fault auto insurance reform legislation to provide insurance coverage options. Changes apply to policies issued or renewed after July 1.

The former law required folks to have auto insurance that includes unlimited personal injury protection medical coverage to pay for expenses if someone is injured in an auto crash.

“People have more flexibility now and more options,” Macomb Township resident Tom Sokol, an independent insurance agency co-owner, said. “In certain instances, folks are looking at less coverage. If you have Medicare and choose to reduce your coverage, there are some things people lose if they’re injured in a car accident.” 

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