News & Press

Appeals Court Approves Unemployment Benefits

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New Bill Plans to Limit Benefits Based on State Rates

Missouri – A new bill (HB 288) proposes that unemployment benefits be cut based on the state’s unemployment rate. If  passed, the unemployment eligibility period will drop one week for every half percent change in the unemployment rate. If the unemployment rate is 9 percent or higher, the eligibility period remains 20 weeks, but if the rate falls below 6 percent the eligibility period plunges to 13 weeks.

This bill also seeks to consider severance and termination payouts as wages thereby delaying when a claimant is eligible to start receiving unemployment benefits.

The restrictions proposed in this bill have been projected to save the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund up to $6.5 million. The bill is currently making its way through the legislature.

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New Legislation Aimed at Fighting Fraud

On Tuesday January 17th, the Senate signed a bill that will enable the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to gain access to the National Directory of New Hires, a federal database that contains personal and financial data on nearly every working American, as well as those receiving unemployment compensation. It is hoped that better oversight of this database will help the GAO to identify potential fraud in federal programs and ensure that these programs help those who are most in need.

The Legislation is waiting to be signed by the President.

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Computer Glitch Falsely Accuses Unemployed of Fraud

Michigan – The State of Michigan used an error-prone computer system that has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of unemployment insurance fraud dating all the way back to 2007. Michigan residents who have been falsely accused are estimated to number between 27,000 and 50,000. Those wrongly accused of fraud were in many cases subjected to 400% fraud penalties, wage garnishment and other aggressive collection techniques, such as seizure of income tax refunds. Tens of millions of dollars were unlawfully taken. A class action law suit has been filed against the state in attempts to reimburse the wrongfully accused.

UPDATE:  On Thursday February 2, 2017, The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency settled a federal lawsuit stemming from the state’s past reliance on an automated computer system that made tens of thousands of false fraud claims against residents. The settlement requires the agency to “conduct an investigation consistent with prevailing U.S. Department of Labor requirements” before making a fraud determination. Any re-determinations of misrepresentation or fraud will be issued “only after the input and review by agency staff, and after the claimant is informed of the conflicting information and provided an opportunity to respond.” However, the settlement does not award monetary damages to plaintiffs, beyond mandatory refunds of fines and penalties levied for false fraud determinations. A separate class-action suit seeking additional financial compensation remains active in state court.

Read more about this ruling here:  http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/02/02/michigan-settles-federal-unemployment-fraud-case/97395906/

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Wait Times for Unemployment Compensation Escalate after Funding Expires

Pennsylvania – Due to the expiration of a four-year funding stream to the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program, hundreds of state workers were laid off leaving many state unemployment call centers severely understaffed. Before layoffs, the average wait time to call the UC service center was just under ten minutes. Now wait times are averaging upwards of 3 hours leaving many laid off workers frustrated and anxious for assistance while discussions on funding to the UC program are at a standstill.

 

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New Federal Guidelines Help Contingent College Faculty Collect Unemployment

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance clarifying when states should deem colleges’ contingent faculty members eligible for unemployment compensation. It spells out what criteria the state agencies should use in determining whether such instructors have lost their jobs or are simply without work during the summer months.

It is hoped that the new guidance will make it easier for deserving contingent faculty members to collect unemployment compensation and save both instructors and their employers legal costs associated with disputes over claims.

To read more details on the department’s new guidance click here: http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/new-federal-guidance-is-hailed-as-helping-adjuncts-collect-unemployment/116401

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MA Unemployment Rate Below 3% – Lowest Since 2001

The Bay State’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.9% in November, marking the first time it has dipped below 3% since the beginning of the century.

Please click the link below for more details

Massachusetts unemployment rate falls below 3 percent

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Seasonal Workers Set to Benefit from New Bill

Pennsylvania – On November 3, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill which allows a worker to earn up to 63 percent of their wages in one quarter and maintain their eligibility for unemployment benefits. This new legislation will mostly affect seasonal workers like those in the construction field, but it could also affect workers who earn significant overtime pay in a single quarter (ie; retail workers and truck drivers).

While this legislative change will expand unemployment eligibility for more workers, it also plans to reduce costs to the unemployment compensation trust fund. How, you might ask? Through an across-the-board 2 percent reduction in benefits, by suppressing future growth in the maximum weekly benefit rate and by increasing interest rates on unpaid employer contributions and penalties for people who knowingly make false statements to claim unemployment benefits.

The Department of Labor & Industry says the changes will save the unemployment compensation trust fund nearly $1.5 billion over 10 years.

Read the full story here: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2016/11/03/Restrictions-on-unemployment-compensation-loosened-for-Pennsylvanias-seasonal-workers/stories/201611030216

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Uber Drivers and Unemployment

New York – While Uber claims their drivers are independent contractors, the state has determined otherwise.

On Wednesday October 12th 2016, the New York State Department of Labor ruled that two former Uber drivers will be considered employees, rather than independent contractors, making them eligible for unemployment.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who brought a lawsuit against Uber on this issue, is now calling for a comprehensive audit of Uber.

Whether or not this ruling will set a precedent for other states is yet to be seen.

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Short-Term Unemployment Compensation Program Benefits Workers with Reduced Hours

Nebraska – Beginning October 1st, the Nebraska Department of Labor will give businesses across the state a new alternative to layoffs when economic times are tough.

Created by the Legislature in 2014, the short-term compensation program will extend partial unemployment benefits to people who are still working, but whose hours have been cut. While the program will not replace worker’s lost wages dollar for dollar, it will allow them to keep part of their regular paycheck and avoid them having to search for another job. Companies are also required to maintain their employees retirement and health insurance benefits.

According to State Senator Heath Mello of Omaha, similar programs (currently implemented in at least 21 other states), have been credited with saving about 166,000 jobs nationwide in 2009 and nearly 100,000 jobs in 2010. This program protects the workforce and also the employer, who will not have to spend months retraining new employees who are hired to replace the very experienced and proficient employees that are often among the first to be laid off in tough economic times.

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