LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The embattled director of the Michigan unemployment office is defending her agency’s work while the GOP Speaker of the Michigan House has called on the governor to fire Lisa Estlund Olson now.
“The image of your department right now is not very good,” says Rep O’Malley.
“For those calling for my removal, this is not an easy job. If it were the previous administration had 8 years and seven UI directors who could have made changes a long time ago.” said Olson.
During the height of the COVID pandemic, Michigan’s jobless rate skyrocketed to a whopping 22.7% and the state unemployment office was swamped with 5.3 million claims, 26 times the normal jobless check work load.
The GOP speaker Jason Wentworth points to a host of agency failures and wants the governor to fire the current director.
The GOP committee chair accused director Olson of not taking responsibility for the failures
“When I look for a leader a leader takes responsibility. They don’t just blame other people.” says Johnson.
“Who am I blaming?” asked Olson.
“Congress, lack of funding, you’re not taking responsibility.” says Johnson.
“I’m sorry. I absolutely take responsibility for what I’ve done.” remarked Olson.
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This GOP lawmaker was concerned with an estimated 1.5 billion cases of fraudulent unemployment claims. The director reports 39 persons are being prosecuted with more coming and 500,000 potential fraud cases were caught by the state.
Rep. O’Malley complained that lawmakers were not given a heads up when the department sent out a letter to 700,000 citizens telling them they owed money back to the state. a demand that was later scrubbed.
“Our constituents are screwed. They’re scared. They’re calling us saying why the heck is this. When it comes to customer service and communication, would say your department has failed?”
But Rep. Brixie complained part of the problem is the GOP lawmakers have not reauthorized the hiring of more workers.
We’re asking what can be done but yet we have not provided the 500 added employees that have been requested.
Despite the call for her removal and her alleged lack of leadership, director Olson won’t leave and is working on a new computer system provide better service to those out of work.