BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — A business owner in Big Rapids finally has thousands of dollars after FOX 17 got involved with his unemployment claim.
He waited for nearly a year, submitted all the paperwork and filled out the right forms.
Despite doing everything that was asked of him, he could not get any solid answers from the UIA as to what was happening.
When a lawmaker highlighted his struggles, I reached out to her to try and help.
“This will most likely be my one and only chance to speak directly to the person who may be able to help me,” said State Representative Michele Hoitenga, Manton, as she questioned the UIA director on Thursday.
She tried getting some type of answers for a business owner in her district.
“This particular constituent applied for unemployment over 11 months ago,” she told the director.
Their business in the hospitality industry remains under tight restrictions. When he couldn’t get answers, he reached out to her office.
“Constituent was finally able to get ahold of the UIA and was told there were no further actions needed on his account, and he could expect payment within 90 days. No money, no response within those 90 days,” she said.
Hotienga’s office escalated the claim, and the business owner finally heard back from the agency.
“You are now requesting what appears to be a business plan and proof that he intends to stay in business. Are you kidding me?” she questioned. “I will verify personally that these people are in business.”
That business is Two Hats Ranch in Big Rapids.
Since 2014, it’s offered a bed and breakfast, hunting trips and shooting classes. There’s also an event venue on site used for weddings and private parties.
Colby Bettis moved to Michigan from Texas and now runs the company.
“My father works here, my wife is here, my sister, myself,” he said. “So, a lot of family employees and then part time a lot of college students, servers, wait staff.”
He waited to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), saying it’s no one else's job to take care of him except for himself.
But after months of being forced by the state to shut down, he finally applied.
“The government basically came in and ‘imminent domained’ my business for the better of the state. So, if you’re going to imminent domain something, you gotta pay for it,” Bettis said.
That application turned into months and months of waiting. He was told the issues would be resolved in 90 days but nothing happened.
“There was nothing else, no notifications, nothing for me to do, so I just waited, and I waited and waited,” he said. “You have nowhere to turn. I mean the state shuts you down and says they’re gonna help you, and you wait a year, and you still haven’t got help? I mean what is a guy supposed to do?“
He took that frustration to Hoitenga’s office, sending her an email, but she too could not get answers.
FOX 17 GETS INVOLVED
After seeing that play out last week, I followed up with the UIA and learned within hours of me reaching out, the state called Bettis with good news.
“That was last week and (checking his watch) Monday afternoon everything shows up in my bank account,” he told FOX 17.
The UIA released more than $20,000.
As a business owner Bettis always responds to negative reviews and works on ways to fix the issue. Which is why he almost didn't want to do this interview.
He understands the workload and stress the agency is under but just wishes it would have better communication.
“Goodness gracious, just shoot an email back out to say ‘hey we know this is what’s happening; here’s the status – we haven’t forgotten about you,’ because that’s what it felt like,” he said.
BACK IN BUSINESS
Bettis tells me the business is slowly getting back up and running. The bed and breakfast is open, and as more statewide restrictions are lifted, the family hopes to get back to normal.