A layoff may be imminent. Is unemployment insurance ready?

Back in the early days of the plague, United States’ The patchwork of government unemployment systems has been tested in the real world – and it didn’t work. The old computer system broke down, people couldn’t call to ask questions or get more information about their programs and in many states there were delays in maintenance.

Some states would still face claims and pending claims from 2020 and 2021, when unemployment programs were in place that increased eligibility and weekly benefits.

A strong labor market over the past year, with low unemployment and fewer layoffs, has given the government some breathing room in dealing with new claims, which fell to 166,000 in March. But with the economy slowing and unemployment rising, initial jobless claims have jumped 50% since the start of the spring – to 260,000 in the week ending Saturday. And the Federal Reserve he predicts that unemployment will rise again soon.

So, how prepared is the economy for an increase in unemployment?

There is good news for unemployment insurance, or UI, systems across the country, he said Andrew StettnerDirector of Workforce Policy at Century Foundation.

“The Biden administration, they’re going to try to act quickly,” he said, “trying to identify business strategies that will slow things down, try it.[ing] for the nations to fix them.”

He said some countries have implemented technical reforms, but they won’t start until the mid-2020s. “We may have a financial crisis before these new programs are implemented.”

Congress he gave Department of Labor and $2 billion in emergency funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help states upgrade their emergency programs.

“We have sent teams of experts now to 24 different countries,” said Michele Evermore, deputy director of Policy Department of Labor modern UI office. “They get into the system, they understand what’s preventing them from paying benefits on time, paying benefits equally. We’ve also delivered $140 million to countries to fight fraud, which will also be a big help in the next crisis. “

Pennsylvania has already revamped its unemployment insurance technology, he said Julia Simon-Michel, managing attorney in the workers’ compensation division at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. Simon-Mishel also serves as co-chairman of the unemployment insurance company National Academy of Social Insurance.

“Things are moving faster than they were during the pandemic,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s a very low bar.”

He said the new system is “targeting people to use the Internet and social media to do everything they can to their benefit,” from requesting information updates and entertaining denials.

“While I’m sure there’s some work to be done on the agency side – because these technologies were designed for agencies – unfortunately, they weren’t designed or built by claimants or employers.”

The new system creates barriers for low-income workers and immigrants, who may not have Internet access or English skills, Simon-Mishel said. “For many of the people we see, they’re still struggling to operate machinery, use new technology, and it’s very difficult to reach Department of Labor and Industry I’m getting answers.”

Currently, there is a shortage of workers in unemployment agencies across the country, he said Department of Labor Always.

“They’ve been working overtime now for several years. They put up with verbal abuse in the course of their work. And so we’ve lost a lot of trained insurance workers out of work.”

As Evermore told a congressional hearing last week: “The turnover has been so great, it’s reduced the power to a minimum. Unless we invest in personnel and systems, they will not be effective in responding to the next crisis.”

Even if countries have solved their labor problems with technology, there are big differences between them when it comes to who workers should receive benefits, how much they earn per week and how long they can receive benefits before they are no longer eligible.

“This outbreak exposed the problems that had existed for some time in the UI,” he said Jenna Gerrythe chief representative of the workers at National Employment Law Project. “It leaves a lot of workers, especially Black and working women, out of work at all.”

That’s because many states ban part-time workers, temporary workers, low-income workers in the past and independent contractors. And countries have been shortening the period of benefit, Mr. Gerry said – which across the country was 26 weeks from the start of the epidemic.

“We have 13 states that are now offering less than 26 weeks, and offering as little as 12 weeks of benefits.”

States have also been reducing eligibility by tightening job search requirements, for example, he said Stettner of the Century Foundation.

“Less than three out of 10 unemployed people are receiving a paycheck,” Stettner said, referring to the “receiving risk” in. Department of Labor data, which was 28% in the first quarter of 2022. Acceptance was more than twice during the epidemic – encouraged by federal epidemic programs – and about 50% back in 1980.

In other countries, such as Louisiana, New Hampshire and Florida, the number of recipients in the first quarter of this year was less than 15%. The number was at or below 10%. Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

The average weekly earnings also vary widely and are not inflated by the global pandemic payouts, which from $300 to $600 per week in 2020 and 2021. In the first phase, more benefits were given Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, Hawaii and North Dakota. Very low benefits were paid Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Tennessee.

Finally, despite the latest technology reforms, many people who file are still waiting a long time for benefits to start flowing, said Simon-Mishel of Philadelphia Legal Assistance.

“People are not being paid right now during the most important time – which is the first two months after someone is out of a job, the first time rent payments come after they stop receiving wages,” he said.

According to the UI data dashboard published by a Century Foundation, the federal standard is that state programs verify UI eligibility on 80% of benefit claims within three weeks. Only five countries – Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota and South Carolina – meet the same standard now.