Whitmer names new unemployment director

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LANSING — 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. “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 in November 2020 after just under 18 months in the position.

Republican Rep. Steve Johnson, the House Oversight Committee chair, expressed his interest in making the payout process more accessible to residents 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 the 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 take on the role as she continues to perform as the state’s chief security officer, handling issues of cybersecurity.

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