An area legislator is a contributor to legislation that will change the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency’s fraud and identity theft system.

Governor Rick Snyder signed a set of bipartisan bills last week that use a multi-faceted approach in modernizing the UIA’s system. The reform reduces fraud penalties, requires detailed documents for those applying for unemployment benefits to confirm their identity, and prevents the UIA from charging interest on benefit overpayments. The bills also modify the consequences for an employer who fails to provide timely information and requires the agency to reconsider decisions made regarding benefits if the previous decision was sent to a bad address.

Each of the bills was approved unanimously in both chambers and State Representative Joe Graves of Argentine Township says he’s looking forward to implementation. Graves is chair of the House Oversight Committee and helped develop the framework of legislation addressing fraud and unemployment insurance issues. Graves says he and other stakeholders set a goal for 900 workgroup hours and were able to "hammer out what needed to change".

Graves sponsored House Bill 5165, which improves identity theft protections with the UIA. The bill allows the agency to immediately cease paying benefits when it receives an affidavit from a person with a stolen identity and a corroborating report from their employer. Graves says the legislation also expands the agency’s advocacy program for claimants or employers accused of fraud so they receive free representation unless they are found guilty. Before, those accused did not qualify for the program, deviating from the approach that a citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Graves says the goal was to solve issues within the system rather than criticize the agency. He believes the new plan provides clarity, restores integrity, and improves accountability. (DK)