By Bria Brown

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s acting unemployment director told lawmakers Wednesday her office is trying to balance between quickly paying benefits to jobless workers and preventing fraud, saying impostor claims are rampant in a backlog of 90,000-plus cases.

Liza Estlund Olson took over the Unemployment Insurance Agency less than a month ago after the previous chief, Steve Gray, fell out of favor with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The agency last week released an independent report showing how — faced with an unprecedented deluge of claims during the coronavirus lockdown last spring — it made policy, technological and organizational changes that increased exposure to fraud.

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The state, for instance, waived a 10-day review period so it could pay benefits more quickly. A “sequencing error,” though, resulted in claims being filed, certified and paid on the same day before being run through fraud-check software at night.

“The idea was a potentially good idea if it had worked the way it was supposed to work,” Estlund Olson told the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic. “It’s just this constant balancing act between not paying out to people who aren’t supposed to be paid and paying those people timely who are supposed to get paid.”

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