Agency is helping people navigate Michigan's bogged down unemployment system

State unemployment office says they have received about 400,000 claims in the past 2 weeks
Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 17:07:23-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An agency normally focused on helping Michiganders find employment has shifted their resources and is now helping people navigate the state's unemployment claim system.

According to the state's unemployment insurance agency office, they have received about 400,000 claims in the past 2 weeks. This surge in numbers is overwhelming the automated system that is in place, leaving people waiting on the phone for hours and in some cases having their calls dropped or web pages time out.

“It's a system that that wasn't designed for a global pandemic basically trying to keep up," Brittany Lenertz, director of talent solutions at West Michigan Works! told FOX 17 Thursday.

People who are finding themselves waiting for hours on the phone, having your calls repeatedly dropped or having webpages time out after long periods of idle time when trying to file an unemployment claim, are encouraged to contact their local West Michigan Works! office.

“We can't help people get in that back end or anything like that. What we do have is knowledge about how to access the system, the best times to try, the best ways to try. We're trying to help people with troubleshooting," Lenertz said Thursday.

The staff at West Michigan Works! are not accustomed to guiding people through the claim process, but felt this was the best way they could serve their community at this time.

"We're all about helping people connect to meaningful employment in our communities and serve both our employers and our job seekers in that way. But we know right now, we're in very unusual circumstances," Lenertz said.

She says that much of what her staff has been providing is just affirmation that callers are doing the right thing, even if it feels like you just can't make progress in having your claim processed.

“when the system is so overwhelmed with the number of calls and the online filing. A lot of times people just need to hear that they're not doing anything wrong. They just need to be persistent and keep at it, that it's nothing on their end that's not working or anything like that.”

Luann Dunsford, CEO of Michigan Works!, said in a statement to FOX 17 Thursday afternoon that they would be ready to shift their operations back to facilitating employment for the people of Michigan.

“In its 33 years of existence, the Michigan Works! system has seen our state go through some economically devastating situations,” Dunsford said. “When this crisis passes, we stand ready to get Michigan’s economy jump started and up and running at full speed again.”

West Michigan Works! has 2 upcoming virtual job fairs on April 21 and 23. Registration for those open up Monday, April 13.

You can find out which West Michigan Works! office you should be calling by visiting their website.