The Michigan Senate recently approved legislation to crack down on unemployment fraud and help ensure that benefits will be there for state residents who depend on it while looking for work.

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After a decade-long recession and double-digit unemployment figures, Michigan’s unemployment trust fund (which is supported by state and federal unemployment taxes paid by job providers) is in the hole $3.9 billion.

That’s why the Michigan Senate recently approved legislation to crack down on unemployment fraud and help ensure that benefits will be there for state residents who depend on it while looking for work.

According to a recent report from the state auditor general (which cites overpayments, uncollected penalties and millions paid to illegal aliens), Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency did not collect up to $38.5 million in overpayments. Unemployment fraud by individuals collecting benefits while working costs Michigan an estimated $100 million to $150 million a year.

House Bill 4408 requires the Michigan UIA to be more proactive in collecting overpayments of benefits by contracting for use of state-of-the-art anti-fraud software.

As approved by the Senate, the legislation also retroactively extends an additional 20 weeks of benefits to 150,000 long-term unemployed individuals whose benefits ran out at the end of last year.

With unemployment still in the double digits, we must do everything we can to safeguard these vital benefits for Michigan residents who really need them and are depending on them while looking for work. This proposal will also help ensure that the system is not bogged down by fraud, which costs the state’s job providers hundreds of millions of dollars.

HB 4408 has been approved by both chambers of the Legislature and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. I look forward to this key measure becoming law.

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Sen. Rick Jones is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and vice chair of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. He represents the 24th state Senate District, which includes Allegan, Barry and Eaton counties.

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