BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A Battle Creek woman filed for unemployment and collected for nearly a year. Then, the UIA told her she owed $23,000 back to the state.
She protested and a judge ruled in her favor, but her account was never updated online until FOX 17 reached out to the agency.
Jessica Hatch applied for a job with the Census Bureau at the beginning of 2020.
She got hired but was unable to start because of the pandemic. That’s when everything got more complicated.
“As soon as I found out I could apply for unemployment, I did,” said Hatch.
After applying for benefits last year she got approved and was paid.
From April 2020 through February 2021, she collected more than $23,000. Then, the unemployment agency determined she never qualified in the first place.
“So, I appealed and protested and went to the administrative law judge,” she said. “I got an advocate, and I submitted the emails from the census saying I was offered and accepted the job and that it was postponed and canceled because of COVID.”
After the hearing she had "stop payment" indicators on her account for 10 weeks telling her to verify her employment—which she just did in front of a judge.
“Well, I was irritated because I’ve uploaded—I’ve given the UIA the exact same information, the exact same papers, all the same things. And I have communicated I’ve sent message after message, call after call.”
The judge issued his ruling in May saying Jessica is not disqualified from receiving benefits and does not have to pay money back that she collected for 10 months.
After that notice, though, she tells FOX 17 she never heard anything.
Message after message with no reply and still no payments on more than two months of benefits.
When she reached back out to a senator, she got a response saying the UIA did not need anything else from her and that the judge’s ruling was attached to the case, but it still needed to be reversed on the agency’s end.
“So, it was relieving to see the letter saying, ‘Yeah, you’re right, you do qualify,’ but frustrating that I went two months with no income at all during a crisis when, you know, I needed it most,” said Hatch.
Jessica is back to work but still owes people money that she borrowed from.
She says the UIA really stressed her out, along with thousands of others who have similar issues.
“If I owe them, they would take their money before I even got a chance to collect my own, but here I am waiting still longer for money that I need to pay out to people that I should’ve never went without to begin with.”
After I reached out to the agency, she tells me her issue was removed from her claim.
The UIA also paid her back for the weeks that she was owed.