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Major system reform looming for PA unemployment

 

 

 

Pennsylvania’s unemployment has been a hot topic of discussion in recent weeks. Not in the broad, glowing sense that we are seeing cheery unemployment news covered nationally. While PA is enjoying a decline in their rates of unemployment (4.7 percent as of October) , they are still a tick higher than the current U.S. average (4.1 percent). The real news is coming from Harrisburg, as recently passed legislation will fuel major changes in the state’s administration of unemployment services.

After effective legislation in 2016, several state UC service centers  were closed and the PA Dept. of Labor staff was depleted by 500 workers. In tandem with reliance on antiquated technology, the productivity and responses within the unemployment compensation program have suffered. The performance issues are well documented here. Fast forward to this past week, the PA House has officially passed resultant legislation to not only return employees to the ranks, but finally push through the online system conversions that have been in play for years. Rejoice!

With most UI news being centralized around claimants and the relation to state and federal economy, the employer’s experience is often lost. Shocker.  Fortunately, even amidst service strain at the PA Department of Labor, UTCA experienced little disruption to the employer-based response and adjudication process. Our established agent presence, reputation and relationships at the state allowed us to continue working efficiently to advocate for our employers.

So what does the change legislation change mean for employers?

The increased workforce at the Pennsylvania  unemployment compensation service centers can only mean good things for employers and claimants alike.

Likewise, in our experience, the conversion to online-based claims systems ultimately benefit everyone.

But pump the breaks.

The transition process can be a bit challenging as states and their employees roll out the platform. Employers managing their UI programs should remain hyper vigilant of any communication from the state when the system gets closer to implementation. Many system launches have left employers ill-informed while eliminating paper claims, without knowing they are responsible for registering and regularly monitoring the new web-based platforms. This lack of awareness can lead to a serious risk in increased charge activity for missed claims, and benefit integrity compliance penalties. We have engaged several prospective employers over the last five years that thought their claim activity had pleasantly (and magically) disappeared. When in reality, they were never made aware of the “switch” and had been incurring copious claims and charges. For Pennsylvania employers already struggling to manage unemployment, be “on-guard” as the online system develops further. UTCA will continue to actively engage the PA Dept. of Labor to stay abreast of new developments, while continuing to champion our employers through whatever hiccups new technology may pose!

As always, if you are an employer challenged by managing unemployment (or an inefficient UI vendor), don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to listen, not push.

UTCA Gives Thanks to 20th Annual Client Update Sponsors!

UTCA would like to pass along our sincere gratitude to all sponsors of the 20th Annual Client Update!

In preparation for the October 5th event, UTCA would like to give special thanks to Paragus Strategic ITCheckWriters Payroll, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, and Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE). These key partners, who provide widely-respected services or support to the employer community will have exhibitor tables set up at our update. Our exhibitors will be on hand to say “Hello” to many of our mutual clients and will be available to provide information to those interested in learning more about their organizations. Please take a few minutes to stop by their tables and chat!

If you have not already, please make sure to RSVP “Yes” to this years’ update! Please join us for our traditional program with a hot breakfast, networking with your peers, and in honor of our 20th Annual Conference new and updated prizes! Participants will have a chance to win Springfield Thunderbirds tickets, restaurant gift cards, and much more.

The event will be held at the Sheraton Springfield, Mahogany Room, 1 Monarch Place. Registration begins at 8:00am. The program begins at 9:00am and concludes at 12:30pm. As always, this is a free conference for UTCA clients. We hope to see you there!
         

 

 

 

 

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Arkansas’ Employers Could See Significant Reductions in Their Unemployment Taxes

Effective January 2018, most of the provisions in House Bill 1405 will take effect – one of those being the reduction of the unemployment insurance benefits claim period from five months to four months. The combined efforts of this provision and others noted in this bill plan to reduce Arkansas’ Employers’ insurance taxes by $50 million annually. The local Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce hopes that it will also encourage those drawing unemployment benefits to look for work faster.

Click here for a summary of HB 1405: https://openstates.org/ar/bills/2017/HB1405/ 

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Georgia’s Jobless Rate Decreases as Job Creation Rate Rises

The jobless rate in Georgia has fallen to its lowest levels in almost 10 years as the State’s Labor Industry is creating jobs and putting a record number of people back to work. In the month of June alone, over 27,000 jobs were created which is almost double the state’s normal job creation rate.

Read the full story here:  http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/opinion/article163369158.html

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Tennessee Sets Internal Unemployment Rate Record

The state of Tennessee’s Department of Labor is setting records within their unemployment compensation program. Not only did they announce an historically low unemployment rate of 3.6%, but they are also paying out approved unemployment claims at a record rate due to recent system upgrades. According to the Department of Labor, the majority of people waiting for benefits are receiving their first payment within 10 days.

Read more about this story here: http://www.wsmv.com/story/35935559/tn-unemployment-rate-lowest-in-history-system-paying-people-faster

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Vermont Ruling Expands Employment Classification of Independent Contractors

In a recent ruling issued by the Vermont Supreme Court, owners of a limited liability company (LLC), can be considered an independent contractor even when they do not have any employees.

In a statement issued by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, Lindsay Kurrle noted this ruling “provides a level of clarity that we have not had previously.” She went on to state, “The classification of independent contractors is an issue that the department is committed to — both ensuring that workers are properly protected, and that businesses who want to utilize independent contractors are doing so with confidence and predictability of how the law is applied.”

Read more about this ruling here: http://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/high-court-widens-pool-of-independent-contractors,511798

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Pennsylvania DOL Announces Amnesty Program

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry announced an unemployment compensation amnesty program entitled “Make it Right” on July 1, 2017. The program runs through September 30, 2017 and will not be an annual occurrence.

Parties eligible to participate in the program are claimants with overpayments established on or before Dec. 31, 2016; employers with unpaid contributions through the third quarter of 2016; and employers with unpaid reimbursements due on or before Oct. 31, 2016.

During the three-month amnesty, at fault claimants (who knowingly gave false information that allowed them to receive more benefits than they were entitled to) will receive a discount of half off interest accrued on their balances. They will be required to pay the full overpayment balance, lien costs, a 15 percent penalty and the remaining 50 percent interest. Non-fault claimants (who unknowingly accepted more compensation than they were entitled to) will receive a half-off discount on their entire overpayment balance. Employers will owe all contribution or reimbursement balances, lien costs and half of the interest accrued.

According to Pennsylvania DOL Secretary Kathy Manderino, “It’s an opportunity for claimants and for employers to do the right thing, to pay what they owe, and to end up with a clean slate.”

Visit the program’s website for more details: http://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/UC-Amnesty.aspx

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Unemployment Compensation for Military Mates Who Quit to Relocate

Ohio is currently one of just four states (including Idaho, North Dakota and Pennsylvania) that does not grant unemployment compensation to military spouses who quit their jobs to relocate with their spouse, but a recent bill that has just passed the Ohio House of Representatives could change that.

The bill (House Bill 158), sponsored by Representative Rick Perales, would bring unemployment compensation to these spouses who must leave their civilian jobs to relocate for an active duty transfer with their military mates and according to Representative Perales, it will not be a cost to the state.

The bill is now making its way to the Senate.

View a Summary of the House Bill Here: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-HB-158

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Home Health Care Workers and Unemployment

Minnesota – In a recent case a claimant who had been caring for a family member through a home health care staffing agency alleged that she had been discharged from her assignment when her client moved out of the country and as a result she was no longer able to work for him. On the other hand, the employer maintained that ongoing work was available and when offered to the claimant, it was refused.

Under Minnesota’s unemployment compensation laws, when service for a particular patient ends, attendants are only eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if they tell the staffing service they are willing and able to work with another patient. Otherwise, the end of the original assignment doesn’t count as a discharge.

While an Unemployment Law Judge (ULJ) ruled in favor of the claimant, the state Court of Appeals overturned that ruling stating that “In this case, respondent elected to serve one client, her uncle.  She knew, from the beginning of the employment, that there was an option available to be assigned more clients…Further, when respondent communicated that her uncle had left the country, relator offered her the chance to work for a new client; respondent chose not to work.  The end of the employment relationship was not the effect of a policy change or a decision that relator did not want to employ respondent.  Relator gave respondent a chance to stay, and she declined…In view of the entire record as submitted, the ULJ’s decision finding that respondent was discharged and did not quit is unsupported by substantial evidence in the record. Based on these conclusions, we reverse the decision”.

Read the Full Case Details Here: http://law.justia.com/cases/minnesota/court-of-appeals/2017/a16-1316.html

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Employer Supplemental Unemployment Compensation Plan Prevents “Double-Dipping”

This recent case should be of great interest to any employers who offer a supplemental unemployment compensation plan to their employees. According to a recent ruling, if that plan pays the equivalent of regular weekly wages, then the employee can’t collect additional unemployment compensation payments from the state system.

Read the Full Case Details Here: https://casetext.com/case/leisey-v-express-scripts-servs-co 

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