May 20, 2020

The Journey of the Jobless [The American Prospect]

Kalena Thomhave writes:

"OVER THE PAST DECADES, states have diverged in their approach to UI, as some have altered policies in order to please employers over workers. Back during the Great Recession, the majority of states exhausted their trust funds and had to borrow from the federal government. As the country recovered, states needed to pay those loans back; after a short grace period, federal UI taxes on employers would increase to make up the gap. More conservative states instead covered the costs by slashing benefits and benefit duration to pay down the debt.

Modernization does not necessarily equal UI benefits in a jobless worker’s pocket. Florida’s Reemployment Assistance program—the state’s name for UI—was modernized in 2013 and specifically designed to keep benefit access low, according to a Politico report. The new system, designed by Deloitte, was riddled with glitches and errors even when it debuted seven years ago. (Deloitte delivered a similarly error-prone UI system to Massachusetts that same year.)

A Florida audit report from 2019 also documented known errors in the system.


"Even before the pandemic, Florida’s rules were so restrictive that, on average, just one in every ten jobless workers benefited from the program. 'Here we are at a point where our system couldn’t handle [UI] claims under normal circumstances, much less the influx now,' says Cindy Huddleston [emphasis added], an attorney and senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute in Orlando. The state has had to 'suddenly go from zero to a hundred miles per hour overnight.'"


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