Michigan Governor Names New Unemployment Director

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer replaced the acting director of Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency on Monday following months of scrutiny from Republican lawmakers,

New Director Julia Dale is coming from her position as director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Acting Director Liza Estlund Olsen, will temporarily remain at the agency to help with the transition before returning to her role as director at the Office of the State Employer.

“Julia will hit the ground running and I am proud to have a permanent director leading the way at UIA,” Whitmer said in a news release. “Under her leadership, I am confident that UIA will clear the backlog, tackle waste, fraud, and abuse, and get people the resources they need while saving taxpayer dollars.”

Estlund Olsen and her predecessor Steve Gray came under heavy scrutiny by Republican lawmakers over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic due to difficulties and delays in accessing unemployment payouts, as well as not addressing fraudulent claims.

Gray resigned from the position in November 2020 after just under 18 months at the position.

Republican Rep. Steve Johnson, the House Oversight Committee chair, expressed his interest in making the payout process more accessible to residents in a news release Monday, saying he is hopeful in the future of the new leadership.

“There was a clear and concerning pattern of failure in leadership at the agency," Johnson said. "That failure unfortunately trickled down to everyday people who have been looking for assistance from the agency to support their families, put food on the table and get by in an unprecedented time for our state.”

While Michigan seeks a replacement for Dale as director of Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Michelle Lange who was the chief deputy director the department will serve as acting director.

In addition, Michigan will get a new chief communication officer to direct the state's information technology. Laura Clark will be taking on the role as she continues to perform as the state's chief security officer, handling issues of cyber security.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.