Detroit Regional Chamber > State of Michigan’s Donofrio Provides Employment Update, Recovery Progress

State of Michigan’s Donofrio Provides Employment Update, Recovery Progress

September 17, 2020
In a conversation with statewide stakeholders, Jeff Donofrio, director of Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), provided key updates on the state’s employment and COVID-19 response. Some key points include:

  • The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) provided nearly $22 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 2.1 million unemployed workers.
  • The UIA has the number one Workshare program in the nation.
  • Small business COVID-19 safety grants provided $8.55 million in funding to support safety and health equipment.
  • Launched Future for Frontliners to provide a tuition-free path to a degree for workers who served in essential industries during the peak of the pandemic.
  • The Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s eviction diversion program utilized $60 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding to protect both tenants and landlords after the state’s edition moratorium ended.

While these steps have been promising for the state, there have been challenges along the way, especially operationally, for LEO and the UIA. These include staffing as phone staff went from 100 to 1,000, working through more than 1,000 IT system changes in six months, providing support to the thousands of individual cases that required one-on-one assistance, and preventing and mitigating fraud.

Donofrio also outlined the UIA’s five goals to support Michiganders and the states economic recovery:

  1. Expand access and eligibility.
  2. Process and pay claims as quickly as possible.
  3. Maximize drawdown of Federal relief (Michigan was number one in CARES Act dollars per worker).
  4. Provide short-term relief to employers.
  5. Preserve the health of the Trust Fund.

Further, Donofrio elaborated on the long-term strategy for community economic development. He noted the need for an integrated approach as economic mobility has stalled. To avoid becoming a shrinking state, barriers to greater economic opportunity need to be broken down. With automation changing the way we work, the current ecosystem isn’t creating enough jobs.

More robust educational support and training programs will be necessary. Efforts through the state’s Reconnect program, Futures for Frontliners, and GoingPro are already working toward that. Donofrio continued, emphasizing the importance of investing in early education and training programs to bolster the talent pipeline.

Learn more about these efforts and resources at