06 February 2012

How to Get Unemployment Aid

First appeared in Record-Eagle
The state offers various ways to file for or obtain information on jobless benefit claims, though officials acknowledge some options are more difficult to access than others during peak-use periods.

Chawn Greene-Farmer of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the best way to communicate with the Unemployment Insurance Agency is to set up an online account by going to the state's website at www.michigan.gov/uia and then linking to "UIA Online Services for Unemployed Workers."

The agency has about 100 employees who work as "Virtual Problem Resolution Agents" who can help clients with their claim history, account balances and related information from Mondays through Saturdays.

The state also offers several webcast tutorials on its site to walk clients through the claim application process.
Claimants can also telephone the Michigan Automated Response Voice Network — known as MARVIN — at 1-866-638-3993 to check claim balances and get information. While the MARVIN system was swamped with calls in recent weeks and many clients weren't able to get through, Greene-Farmer said the agency is adjusting its customer service staff to deal with high call volumes.

For face-to-face assistance, claimants can visit a Problem Resolution Office that is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The northern Michigan office is in Gaylord at 400 W. Main St. in Suite 102.

The state offers another toll-free help line at 1-866-644-3577 that has pre-recorded messages about unemployment insurance and extended benefit programs. No live staff is available through that service.

If all else fails, residents can contact their state lawmakers for assistance. Eric Dean, chief of staff for state Sen. Howard Walker, of Traverse City, said more offices welcome calls from constituents needing help with state agencies.

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