LANSING —Governor Engler’s plan to reorganize the Michigan Employment Security Agency (MESA) and privatize part of its function kicked in on February 2, but not without controversy.

Previously, MESA provided unemployment benefits services and employment services, but the new agency—known as the Unemployment Agency—will only collect unemployment taxes and pay out unemployment benefits. Local Workforce Development Boards, public-private partnerships supervised by the Michigan Jobs Commission, will take over employment services. Those boards had already been providing similar services to welfare clients and those affected by layoffs and plant closings. Job-seekers will now enter their resumes in the Michigan Jobs Bank on the Internet

Meanwhile, opponents of the governor’s reorganization cite a study funded by a Massachusetts labor union which claims that a similar program in that state failed. The governor’s office countered that the two programs are not comparable. At the same time, the U. S. Department of Labor is opposing the Engler plan and is withholding $15 million in annual funding to Michigan because it claims that guidelines require that federally-funded employment services be provided exclusively by government employees.