Best Practices for Documentation to Win Unemployment Claims

Welcome to this month’s edition of Employer Insights!

In our ongoing effort to provide valuable information to help you manage your workforce effectively, this issue focuses on a critical aspect of HR management: documenting employee performance and conduct to successfully navigate unemployment claims.

Best Practices for Documentation to Win Unemployment Claims

Navigating unemployment claims can be challenging for employers. Proper documentation is not just a best practice; it’s your best defense in unemployment claims. Here are key strategies to ensure your documentation is robust and effective:

1. Consistency is Key
Ensure that all policies are applied consistently among all employees. Inconsistency can lead to claims of unfair treatment.

2. Timely Record Keeping
Document issues as they happen. Timely documentation is more likely to be viewed as credible and accurate.

3. Be Specific and Objective
Include specific details in your documentation, such as dates, times, and direct quotes when possible. Avoid opinions or subjective statements.

4. Use the Right Tools
Employ standardized forms for performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, and employee acknowledgments to ensure all necessary information is recorded.

5. Train Your Managers
Managers should understand the importance of documentation and how to do it effectively. Regular training sessions can help maintain this crucial skill across your team.

6. Secure Employee Acknowledgment
Whenever possible, have the employee acknowledge the documentation. This can be through a signature or, if they refuse to sign, a note that the document was reviewed with them and they declined to sign.

7. Maintain Confidentiality
Keep all documentation confidential and secure. This respects the privacy of your employees and protects the integrity of your documentation process.

8. Regular Reviews
Periodically review your documentation practices to ensure they meet legal standards and best practices. Consult with HR professionals or legal counsel as needed.

Why Good Documentation Matters

Good documentation supports your position in unemployment claims, showing that actions were taken for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. It also helps in:

Providing clear evidence in disputes
Ensuring fair and consistent treatment of employees
Supporting decisions made regarding employment actions
Remember, effective documentation is not about building a case against employees but about maintaining a clear record of performance, conduct, and any actions taken. This approach not only aids in unemployment claims but also fosters a transparent and accountable workplace culture.

Stay Informed and Protected

For further reading and resources, consider visiting the Department of Labor’s website or consulting with legal professionals specializing in employment law. Staying informed about best practices and legal requirements is essential for managing your workforce effectively and protecting your business.

We’re Here to Help

UCM Specialists is dedicated to supporting you in all aspects of employment management. If you have questions about documentation practices or any HR-related concerns, please contact us!

New Jersey Employer Reporting Requirement

We have an important update regarding legislation changes in New Jersey that will be effective from July 31, 2023. These changes require immediate attention as they impact the way employers handle separation information and reporting to the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Division of Unemployment Insurance (LWD).

According to the new legislation, New Jersey employers are already required to provide Form BC-10 to every separated employee upon separation, which includes information about unemployment benefits. However, starting July 31, 2023, employers will now be obligated to “immediately and simultaneously” send a copy of the same Form BC-10 provided to the separated employee to the LWD.

In addition to the existing requirements, employers will now need to provide a new form to the separated employee and the LWD (to be published by the LWD with submission instructions). This new form should include information “sufficient to enable the [LWD] to make a benefit determination.” Regardless of whether the separated employee applies for unemployment benefits, employers must submit this new form to the LWD along with the previously mentioned Form BC-10.

Please note that the state of New Jersey has not yet provided specific instructions on how to implement and adhere to these changes. Rest assured, we are actively monitoring the situation and researching the details as they become available.

While the employer must provide the employee with the above notice, UCM can work with your team to receive a feed of terminations related specifically to New Jersey. UCM is already has the technologies to receive this type of data efficiently, however we are waiting for our state contacts to direct us as to how this data would then be transmitted to their agencies.

We understand that these changes may raise questions or concerns, and we are here to address them. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you require any assistance or clarification regarding the upcoming legislation changes.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We greatly value your partnership and trust in our services. We will continue to keep you informed as new developments arise.

U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops: What Employers Need to Know

 

Good news for the U.S. economy – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced a surge in nonfarm payroll employment in August 2022. Employment in the professional and business services, retail trade, and healthcare sectors saw gains of over 300,000 jobs while the unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent. This information came from both household surveys asking individuals about job status and business surveys inquiring about jobs added.

The BLS also reported that all 50 U.S. states had lower jobless rates than a year ago. Although the national unemployment rate rose, it was 1.5 percent lower than in August 2021.

This is good news, but what does it mean for employers?

 

IS LOW UNEMPLOYMENT GOOD OR BAD?

On the surface, low unemployment may sound like a positive thing. People are working, and that is good, isn’t it? Not always. The University of Massachusetts Global explains that the unemployment rate can get too low, causing adverse effects.

One challenge of low employment is more difficult recruiting. When more people are employed, fewer people look for work, and the talent pools shrink. With more job opportunities than candidates, applicants can be more selective about what positions they accept. Employers may even see more turnover.

Low productivity can also arise from a low unemployment rate. If companies don’t offer competitive wages when the labor market is tight, they may end up hiring less qualified candidates. The resulting skills gap means less productivity and overwhelmed new employees.

Although experts disagree on exactly what it means, low unemployment could foreshadow a recession. Some think it could point to a positive shift in the economy. Others believe it means the economy could be heading for a mild slowdown, and still others think it’s an indicator of a more severe downturn to come.

 

LOW UNEMPLOYMENT AND DOMINANT EMPLOYERS

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) discusses low employment rates and dominant employers. Dominant employers attract large numbers of applicants without offering higher wages. They are in less densely populated U.S. areas and provide almost 10 percent of job openings in those regions.

Dominant employers are concentrated in the healthcare, agriculture, and mining industries. They are reactive to changes in the interest rate by firing workers when rates rise and hiring when rates lower. According to the IMF, the current historically low unemployment rate is likely to rise because of dominant employers and rising interest rates.

Because of this connection between changing interest rates, low unemployment, and dominant employers, a low unemployment rate isn’t necessarily a good thing. It has implications across the economy—not only for workers but also for the region. And in rural areas, dominant employers may add to unemployment due to changing interest rates.

 

RISING INTEREST RATES AND RISING UNEMPLOYMENT RATES

With the fourth quarter 2022 interest rate hike, the unemployment rates are also expected to rise. The IMF reports that the economy is projected to slow, which is understandable as people and companies spend less. The higher prices are in danger of becoming permanent as many workers’ wages haven’t kept up with inflation. As a result, the Fed is expected to act to restore price stability.

In the near term, this means job loss and unemployment rising from its historic low. With the economic effects of unemployment, interest rates, and inflation intertwined, a rising unemployment rate is not the red flag that it may seem. It has a lot of beneficial aspects for the economy and employers.

Additional economic risks that may lead to rising unemployment rates include global factors such as the Russian war with Ukraine, the ongoing pandemic, and more shutdowns in China. These, along with high inflation, require action from the Fed to control inflation but affect unemployment.

 

 

RISING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE GOOD FOR EMPLOYERS BUT NOT WORKERS

Rising unemployment rates are good for businesses because they expand talent pools and ease recruiting challenges. Plus, companies don’t have to offer flexible schedules, better benefits, and higher wages as they would during low unemployment.

However, higher unemployment rates still mean more people are out of work. They can also cause an end to the hiring bonuses and interview payments common in very tight job markets.

The economic forces causing this increase can make some operations more difficult and expensive, ultimately affecting employees. Rising interest rates mean companies take cost control measures, like firing employees, implementing spending freezes, and reducing expansion. Business growth slows or stops as companies adjust to economic challenges.

Reuters reports that the 22 million jobs lost at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been recovered. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines for children and the reopening of schools most likely helped parents, especially women 25 to 54, return to work. But the Fed is now trying to control the inflation that has consumer prices rising uncontrollably, which will most likely impact the unemployment rate.

Even as these gains look bright, an expected 2023 recession looms. Economic recession and rising unemployment mean necessary spending adjustments for employers, workers, and households. The Fed likely won’t normalize inflation until the second quarter of 2024 when unemployment is projected to rise to five percent.

Unemployment Insurance Business Guide

As a business, understanding the ins and outs of unemployment insurance and how it affects your employees is always important, but especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • When an employee loses their job, unemployment insurance pays out to ensure the individual is properly supported for the time being.
  • If you have employees, you are required to pay into State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) and the Federal Unemployment Insurance Act (FUTA).
  • To apply for unemployment benefits, employees will need to file a claim with their state’s unemployment insurance program.

In life, there are moments and roadblocks we never would have predicted. Take COVID-19, for instance: We are experiencing trying times, and many businesses especially are feeling the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.

No one plans to lay off staff or close their business, even if it’s only temporary. However, when a business shuts their doors or slows down for any reason, employees quickly become former employees. Unemployment insurance gives your workers some financial security while they’re without income.

For both  employers and employees, here is some valuable information on unemployment insurance.

WHAT IS UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE?

Unemployment insurance came into effect nationwide as part of the Social Security Act of 1935 to assist the unemployed during the Great Depression and its recovery. It is a federally mandated and regulated program, but eligibility and payment amounts are determined at a state level.

In most states, unemployment benefits are funded through taxes employers pay on behalf of their employees. In some states, employees pay this tax. These taxes are directed to a state-controlled reserve fund. When an employee loses their job, the insurance will then pay out to ensure the individual receives some financial support for the time being.

The employer reserve fund, which is made up of 3% to 7% of an employee’s gross wages, depending on the individual state, is backed by a reserve fund controlled by the state.  If that fails, the federal government lends money to ensure unemployed workers are paid. All businesses must pay into unemployment insurance, except for certain nonprofits.

The concept of the original unemployment insurance benefit continues to operate in a similar manner as its 1935 inception; however, over the years, more rules, regulations, and reports have been added. Also, the unemployment division now covers payments for disability, Family and Medical Leave Act claims, workforce development, re-employment, and enforcement.

HOW DOES UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WORK?

Many small business owners think they are exempt from unemployment insurance. However, if you have employees, you are required to pay into State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) and the Federal Unemployment Insurance Act (FUTA). All business sizes and types follow the same steps in paying SUI and FUTA, and handling unemployment claims. There are no exemptions for small businesses.

One of the biggest misconceptions held by many business owners and managers is that unemployment insurance is a fixed, uncontrollable tax. This concept could not be further from the truth. Unemployment insurance costs can be controlled from the moment a business starts.

For businesses, SUI is a quarterly tax that is part of the business’s payroll tax. The amount is determined by the state based on the type of business you operate and a wage base. Also taken into consideration is the number of ex-employees who have filed for unemployment claims. (A company with a high number of former employees requesting unemployment pays a higher rate than a company with low turnover.) In most states, this is an employer-only paid tax, but some states require employees to contribute.

FUTA taxes are also paid quarterly and are in addition to SUI. FUTA taxes are paid completely by the employer; it is not taken from employee wages. These taxes are reported to the IRS using Form 940. The business is taxed at 6% on the first $7,000 the employee earns, with a maximum annual pay in of $420 per employee.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR PAYING INTO UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE?

Generally, when a company hires an employee, part of the new-hire process includes enrollment in either the state, federal or both unemployment compensation programs. Depending on the state’s requirements, new hires are periodically reported and placed on tax rolls, but each new hire must be reported to the state.

Subsequently, each time an employee has payroll taxes deducted from each paycheck, some of that money is used for the unemployment compensation insurance pool. Depending on the state where the employer or employee is located, benefits-eligible people will receive biweekly or monthly payments based on a formula [comprising] the employee’s rate of pay, cost of living and other statutory factors.

ARE AT-WILL EMPLOYEES ELIGIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?

Most states have “at-will” employment laws, meaning the employee can leave or be terminated at any time for any reason that is not illegal. At-will employees are eligible for unemployment. The exception is if the departure is due to a disciplinary problem, such as insubordination, theft, and other serious charges.

If you terminate an employee, keep detailed documentation that protects the company if a claim is filed. Documentation is key. When documenting [an employee’s conduct], businesses should write up incidents as soon as they occur. That is, document who was involved, who witnessed what, where events occurred, when events occurred, what happened, why you think it happened and so on.

ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS AND FREELANCE WORKERS ELIGIBLE?

SUI and FUTA are paid only for payroll W-2 employees. W-2 employees, qualify for employer unemployment insurance if they are unemployed through no fault of their own and meet the state’s work and wage requirements, as well as any other eligibility requirements.

If you employed independent contractors or freelance workers (W-9 workers), they are generally not covered by unemployment insurance.

(How much a freelancer is eligible for varies depending on his or her previous income and their state’s unemployment laws. Individuals who worked as independent contractors or freelance workers are encouraged to contact their state’s unemployment office.)

HOW DO FORMER EMPLOYEES FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT?

To apply for these benefits, the first step former employees will need to take is filing a claim with the unemployment insurance program in their state as soon as they become unemployed. They will need to provide some information, such as who the former employer was, how long they worked there, the address of their former employer, etc. Once that info has been submitted, it generally takes two to three weeks before they receive their first benefit check

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN A FORMER EMPLOYEE FILES FOR UNEMPLOYMENT?

After an employee files a claim, the now-former employer, i.e., you, receives a “Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed” letter from the state. If you approve the claim, the funding comes from your tax account. (If that happens, your unemployment taxes will increase.)

You can accept or contest an unemployment claim request. If you accept it, no further action is necessary on your part. It is then up to the state to determine if the claim meets certain criteria (such as length of service, the reason for unemployment, etc.).

However, if you contest the claim – say the employee was let go for malicious behavior or quit for a new job that fell through – you need to inform the state why you’re contesting the claim, and you will need to provide details about the employee, including dates of service, job title, the reason for termination, and any notes or reports from the employee’s personnel record. Good record-keeping, including detailed performance reviews, is essential throughout the duration of an employee’s time with your business. As the employer, you have 10 days to contest the claim or risk an increase in unemployment tax.

When unemployment insurance is granted, the average compensation period nationally is 26 weeks, but each state determines the length of compensation time.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR IN-DEPTH ADVICE

The steps involved with handling unemployment insurance can usually be found on each state’s website.  It is advised that any small business employer with unemployment insurance and tax questions to talk to an employment attorney in the state in which you employ individuals. The Department of Labor also provides links to the various state departments charged with handling the unemployment insurance for that state. “The overall takeaway is that unemployment insurance is not handled by insurance agencies but by a state governmental agency.”

*Contact UCM for any unemployment questions related to your business and we can explain how we can help with your unemployment insurance cost needs.

 

Some tips to control your unemployment costs.

Has your business recently seen an increase in unemployment insurance taxes? You’re not alone. The good news is there are some steps you can take that will help your company control unemployment insurance costs.

Sometimes unemployment benefits are necessary. When an employee loses their job through no fault of their own, unemployment insurance can help them stay afloat until they find other employment. So maybe the problem isn’t in the cost of the insurance, but the rate at which it is being used? Here are a few tips you can use to decrease the likelihood that unemployment insurance will be needed:

HIRE SMART

Don’t jump into interviews unprepared and don’t let just anyone do the interviewing. Hiring smart means you take the necessary steps to avoid making a bad hire and paying the consequences. When you hire smart, you’ll decrease your chances that your candidate won’t be a good fit.  The best advice is to take your time. Never hire in a hurry. 

BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

Performance reviews are an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t steal that from any of your employees. From the first day on board, every employee should be aware of their specific expectations and what repercussions may incur if they aren’t meeting those expectations. If an employee must be terminated, make sure you have given them adequate warnings and they are provided the time and resources necessary to improve their performance.

TRAIN PROPERLY

To avoid future problems, be sure to train your employees properly. Safety, anti-discrimination, and workplace behaviors should also be covered at the beginning of employment. To help with this, make sure you have an effective safety training program and a thorough employee handbook.  Ensure you have your new employees sign off on these documents and keep these records in their employee file.

HAVE CONSISTENT DISCIPLINE PROCEDURES

Your business should have a strict disciplinary action policy that all leaders follow. Even in the event of a verbal warning or one-on-one meeting, everything should be documented. Including date, time, people involved, and anything that was discussed including comments. Deal with the disciplinary procedure before you must use it.

FOLLOW CONSISTENT TERMINATION POLICIES

Ultimately, if you must resort to termination, document everything. You should already have documentation of the warnings and disciplinary actions that took place leading up to termination. Since you have been consistent with your performance reviews, the employee should not be surprised of the termination. Even so, don’t miss any steps. Provide the employee notice of the termination as soon as possible. Some states have different laws stating when an employee must be notified and when they must be paid out any remaining compensation. You should also consider an exit interview.

PROMPTLY RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION

If there is a claim for unemployment benefits, provide all necessary documentation and information right away. Promptly doing your part in the situation is your best shot at a fair outcome. If the employee was terminated, provide documentation proving warnings and time/resources provided to rectify behavior. However, if the separation was voluntary, provide the unemployment agency the employee’s letter of resignation and documentation of the exit interview.

Generally, if an employee quits their job, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, “he said, she said” type situations can happen. If you can’t provide proof showing the employee did leave voluntarily, they will likely be granted benefits. So, getting a resignation notice or letter and keeping any text or email messages regarding the separation is important.

As always, please reach out to UCM with any questions or concerns regarding any specific situations as soon as possible.

How many weeks of unemployment compensation are available?

Workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program, although nine states provide fewer weeks, and two provide more. Extended Benefits (EB) are triggered on in four states. Additional weeks of pandemic federal benefits ended in all states on September 6, 2021.

The federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) system helps many people who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages.  Under certain circumstances, unemployed workers who exhaust their regular state-funded unemployment benefits before they can find work can receive additional weeks of benefits.

Under the CARES Act responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, all states received access to federal funding to provide additional weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) benefits to people who exhausted their regular state benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to many others who lost their jobs through no fault of their own but who were not normally eligible for UI in their state. These and other pandemic-related emergency UI programs ended nationwide the first weekend of September 2021, but many states stopped providing these federal benefits before that.

The table below shows the maximum number of regular plus EB benefits that are currently available in each state.

The two states providing more than the 26-week maximum are:

  • Massachusetts, which reverted to providing up to 30 weeks of UI, effective September 5, 2021, (the maximum number of weeks is reduced to 26 when a federal extended benefits program is in place as it was during the pandemic, or in periods of low unemployment such as those immediately before the pandemic); and
  • Montana, which provides up to 28 weeks of UI.

The states providing fewer than the standard 26-week maximum include:

  • Arkansas, which provides up to 16 weeks of regular benefits;
  • Michigan, which increased the maximum number of weeks to 26 earlier in the COVID-19 emergency but cut back to 20 weeks for new applicants in 2021; and
  • South Carolina and Missouri, which provide up to 20 weeks of UI.

Unemployment Rates and Weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) Available

State Unemployment (3-month average) Regular UI and extended benefits available
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawai’i
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virgin Islands
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
3.2
6.5
6.2
4.2
7.5
5.9
7.1
5.4
6.7
5.0
3.5
7.0
2.9
6.9
4.1
4.0
3.8
4.3
6.2
4.9
6.0
5.0
4.7
3.8
6.0
4.0
3.5
2.2
7.6
2.9
7.2
7.2
7.4
4.3
3.7
5.4
3.2
5.0
6.4
8.3
5.6
4.2
2.9
4.6
5.9
2.5
3.0
6.4
4.0
5.0
4.8
3.9
14 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
16 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
19 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
21 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
16 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
30 weeks
20 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
20 weeks
28 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26+13 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
13 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
20 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks

The remaining six states periodically update their maximum weeks of UI available based on changes in the state’s unemployment rate:

  • Alabama currently provides up to 14 weeks of UI for new enrollees, with an additional five-week extension for those enrolled in a state-approved training program;
  • Georgia provides 14 weeks of UI, but in the COVID-19 emergency that has been increased to 26 weeks;
  • Florida currently provides up to 19 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2021;
  • Idaho currently provides up to 20 weeks for new enrollees based on its August unemployment rate;
  • Kansas currently provides up to 16 weeks of UI; and
  • North Carolina currently provides up to 13 weeks for claims filed after July 4, 2021.

State laws in many states with a maximum of 26 weeks employ a sliding scale based on a worker’s earnings history to determine the maximum number of weeks for which an individual worker qualifies. Except in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, many UI recipients’ maximum is fewer than 26 weeks.

The table below shows the latest three-month average unemployment rate for each state from July to September, as well as the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available through regular UI and EB. The number of weeks of EB in a state equals the smaller of 13 weeks or half the maximum number of weeks of regular UI in the state — unless the state has adopted an alternative trigger that adds up to seven more weeks when the state’s unemployment rate triggers on a High Unemployment Period (HUP), allowing up to 20 weeks of EB (but no more than 80 percent of the number of regular weeks the state provides). No state is currently in a HUP.

Return to work bonuses will help increase employment

As vaccination rates increase and the U.S. economy rebounds, many employers are struggling to fill vacancies. To encourage Americans to return to work, some states have begun providing return-to-work bonuses to unemployment insurance beneficiaries who leave unemployment rolls and re-enter the workforce.

STATES OFFERING RETURN-TO-WORK BONUSES
• Arizona
o $2,000 full-time; $1,000 part-time
o Individuals collecting unemployment benefits as of 5/13/21, who find work for 10 weeks and earn up to $25/hour or $52,000. Work must begin by 9/6/21.

• Colorado
o $1,600 for beginning work in May; $1,200 for beginning work in June
o Individuals who received unemployment benefits between 3/28/21 and 5/16/21 and find full-time work for a minimum of eight weeks.

• Connecticut
o $1,000
o Individuals who filed an unemployment claim for the week immediately prior to 5/30/21 and work full-time for 8 weeks prior to 12/31/21. Open to first 10,000 people.

• Kentucky
o $1,500
o Individuals who were collecting unemployment as of 6/23/21 and complete at least 120 hours of work between 6/24/21 and 7/30/21. Incentive will be paid to the first 15,000 people who qualify.

• Maine
o $1,500 full-time; $750 part-time
o Open to individuals who received unemployment benefits the week ending 5/29/21, accept a full-time or part-time (20 hours or more) job that pays less than $25/hour, and remain in the job for at least eight consecutive weeks. The program begins 6/15/21 and will accept applications through 7/25/21.

• Montana
o $1,200
o Individuals collecting unemployment insurance as of 5/1/21 who then complete 4 weeks of paid work.
• New Hampshire
o $1,000 full-time; $500 part-time
o Individuals receiving unemployment benefits as of 5/18/21 who return to work for eight weeks at a job that pays $25/hour or less. First come, first served beginning on 5/18/21, out of a $10M fund.

• Oklahoma
o $1,200
o Incentives will be paid to the first 20,000 individuals receiving unemployment benefits as of 5/15/21 who work 32 hours a week or more for 6 weeks with the same employer. The program will run through 9/4/21.

• Virginia
o $1,000
o Virginia will match up to $500 that small businesses (less than 100 employees) pay to new employees to offset the ongoing costs of childcare, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Match is eligible for up to 25 new hires per business. Jobs must pay $15/hour or more, begin after 5/31/21, and qualify for a W-2.

THE RED TAPE OF RETURN-TO-WORK BONUSES
Are return-to-work bonuses an appropriate substitute for unemployment insurance bonuses? There is a limit to how certain policymakers can be about this substitute when the effects of unemployment insurance bonuses themselves are unclear. Return-to-work bonuses seem like a great solution in theory. They continue to provide people with additional financial support while incentivizing them to rejoin the labor force. In practice, however, they can be difficult to implement and many people who should be eligible for the bonuses will not receive them.
Each state has a slightly different program design for a return-to-work bonus, but the basic structure is similar. Anyone receiving unemployment insurance as of a certain date who starts a new job, and stays in that job for several weeks (ranging from 4 weeks in Montana to 10 weeks in Arizona), is eligible for a payment ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for full-time work.
Unfortunately, states have yet to publicly reveal exactly how people are expected to document that they have started a new job and stayed with it for the required amount of time. While some states may have accurate databases that allow them to use payroll or similar data to confirm tenure at a new job, it’s more likely that the burden of proof will fall on employees. New hires will have to contact the state’s office, provide documentation in the form of payroll stubs or a letter from their employer to prove that they have worked, and then wait for that information to be processed.

Each of these steps creates friction that could make life more difficult for these employees. New hires may feel uncomfortable pushing their boss to email them the required documents. Bosses could also use this government-provided incentive as a way of having more power over new employees, for example, by requiring them to work extra hours uncompensated to receive the necessary paperwork.

This friction will slow down the process of providing people with the bonus, or simply make it so that many people are unable to apply altogether. Some new employees simply will not hear about these new programs. Others may be dissuaded from applying. As we learned last year, many state departments of labor can take months to process unemployment claims. Processing these new claims of employment could take even longer. A person who takes a new job in July is unlikely to receive their bonus until October or later. This delay decreases the motivational impact of the incentive (unemployed people will need money in the short term) and is also likely to be mistimed from a macroeconomic perspective.

Moreover, many states have put limits on how many people will receive the bonus. For example, Kentucky will only provide bonuses to the first 15,000 people who qualify, and New Hampshire has set aside a 10 million dollar fund for the program. As a result, people who should qualify may apply, but not in time to actually receive the payment.

CUT THE PAPERWORK

A better alternative would be for states to eliminate the requirement that people document that they have stayed in their new job altogether. States could either provide the bonus immediately upon someone exiting the unemployment insurance system or (for states that are continuing to participate in the federal programs) simply continue to pay people unemployment insurance for the last few months of the program even after they have found work. In other words, instead of adding a new process where states need to document and verify employment, they should simply stop verifying unemployment.

If we want people to return to work, the immediate incentive of the salary provided by a job is very attractive on its own. Additional payments contingent on a lengthy paperwork process that may not even go through are not going to get people back to work.

WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYER DO TO HELP THE EMPLOYEE?

• Know what benefits are available for employees in your state.
• Know what information is needed from you to provide to your employees.
• Have someone dedicated to answering employee questions regarding benefits and respond in a timely manner due.
• Reach out to UCM Specialists for any additional information or questions you may have.

FAQS ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BY STATE

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Alabama?
Not currently. Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced on May 10, 2021 that Alabama will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Alaska?
Not currently. Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R) Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, announced on May 14, 2021, that Alaska will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Arizona?
Yes. Governor Doug Ducey (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Arizona will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 10, 2021. Funds will be used for Return-To-Work bonuses for Arizonans who were collecting unemployment insurance prior to the announcement. One-time payments will be $2,000 for individuals who rejoin the workforce at a full-time job and $1,000 for part-time. Each will be paid out after completing a minimum of 10 weeks of work. To qualify, recipients must also make $25 per hour or less, equivalent to a yearly salary of $52,000, at their new job, and must begin working by September 6, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Arkansas?
Not currently. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced on May 7, 2021 that Arkansas will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in California?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Colorado?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Jared Polis (D) announced on May 19, 2021 that Colorado will use the Colorado Jumpstart Incentive to provide $1,600 to individuals beginning work in May and $1,200 to individuals beginning work in June. The incentive is available to individuals who received unemployment benefits between 3/28/21 and 5/16/21 and find full-time work for a minimum of eight weeks.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Connecticut?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont (D) announced on May 17, 2021 that Connecticut’s Back To Work CT Program will provide $1,000 bonus payments to 10,000 individuals who filed an unemployment claim for the week immediately prior to May 30, 2021 and work full-time for eight weeks prior to 12/31/21.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Delaware?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in the District of Columbia?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Florida?
Not currently. Governor Ron DeSantis’ (R) Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Dane Eagle, announced on May 24, 2021 that Florida will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Georgia?
Not currently. Governor Brian Kemp (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Georgia will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Hawaii?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Idaho?
Not currently. Governor Brad Little (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Idaho will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Illinois?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Indiana?
Not currently. Governor Eric Holcomb (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Indiana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. After a lawsuit was filed and the cancellation was delayed, a judge ordered on 6/25/21 that Indiana must continue paying the benefits. The state is appealing the decision. A return-to-work benefit has not been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Iowa?
Not currently. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Iowa will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Kansas?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Kentucky?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Andy Beshear (D) announced on June 24, 2021 that Kentucky’s Back To Work Incentive will provide $1,500 bonus payments to the first 15,000 individuals who qualify. To qualify, individuals must have been collecting unemployment as of June 23, 2021, and complete at least 120 hours of work between June 24, 2021, and July 30, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Louisiana?
Not currently. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) announced on June 16, 2021 that Louisiana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 31, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Maine?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Janey Mills’ (D) Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman announced an update to Maine’s Back To Work Grant Program on July 1, 2021. The program will provide $1,500 to individuals who begin full-time work between June 15th-July 25th, and $750 to individuals who begin part-time (20 hours or more) during that time period. The program is open to individuals who received unemployment benefits the week ending May 29, 2021, accept a full-time or part-tome job that pays less than $25/hour, and remain in the job for at least eight consecutive weeks. The program begins June 15, 2021, and will accept applications through July 25, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Maryland?
Not currently. Governor Larry Hogan (R) announced on June 1, 2021 that Maryland will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 3, 2021. After a lawsuit was filed and the cancellation was delayed, a judge ordered on 7/3/21 that Maryland must continue paying the benefits. The state is appealing the decision. A return-to-work benefit has not been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Massachusetts?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Michigan?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Minnesota?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Mississippi?
Not currently. Governor Tate Reeves (R) announced on May 10, 2021, that Mississippi will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Missouri?
Not currently. Governor Mike Parson (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Missouri will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Montana?
Yes. Governor Greg Gianforte (R) announced on May 4, 2021 that Montana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 27, 2021. Funds will be used for a $1,200 Return-To-Work Bonus initiative. Individuals who were receiving unemployment benefits as of May 4, 2021, and subsequently accepted employment will receive the payment after completing a minimum of four paid weeks of work.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Nebraska?
Not currently. Governor Pete Rickets (R) announced on May 24, 2021 that Nebraska will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Nevada?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Hampshire?
Yes. Governor Chris Sununu (R) announced on May 18, 2021, that New Hampshire will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. Instead, New Hampshire has established a ‘Summer Stipend’ program paying out $1,000 to individuals who rejoin the workforce at a full-time job and $500 for part-time. To qualify, recipients must have been collecting unemployment insurance as of May 18, 2021, take a job that earns $25 an hour or less, and stay at the job for at least eight weeks. The payments will be on a first come, first served basis, paid out of $10M fund.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Jersey?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Mexico?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New York?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in North Carolina?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in North Dakota?
Not currently. Governor Doug Burgum (R) announced on May 10, 2021 that North Dakota will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Ohio?
Not currently. Governor Mike DeWine (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Ohio will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Oklahoma?
Yes. Governor Kevin Stitt (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Oklahoma will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. Funds will instead go towards a $1,200 ‘Return to Work Incentive’ for Oklahomans who were collecting unemployment insurance prior to the announcement. Payments will be distributed to the first 20,000 individuals who rejoin the workforce before September 4, 2021, and complete 6 consecutive weeks of employment of 32 hours a week or more with the same employer.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Oregon?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Pennsylvania?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Rhode Island?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in South Carolina?
Not currently. Governor Henry McMaster (R) announced on May 6, 2021 that South Carolina will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 30, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in South Dakota?
Not currently. Governor Kristi Noem (R) announced on May 12, 2021, that South Dakota will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Tennessee?
Not currently. Governor Bill Lee (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Tennessee will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 3, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Texas?
Not currently. Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Texas will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Utah?
Not currently. Governor Spencer Cox (R) announced on May 12, 2021 that Utah will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Vermont?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Virginia?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Ralph Northam (D) announced on June 11, 2021 that Virginia’s Return To Earn Grant Program will match up to $500 that small businesses (less than 100 employees) pay to new employees to offset the ongoing costs of child care, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Matches are eligible for up to 25 new hires per business. Jobs must pay $15/hr or more, begin after 5/31/21, and qualify for a W-2.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Washington?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in West Virginia?
Not currently. Governor Jim Justice (R) announced on May 14, 2021 that West Virginia will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Wisconsin?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Wyoming?
Not currently. Governor Mark Gordon (R) announced on May 12, 2021 that Wyoming will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

There are 22 states that will be ending extra unemployment benefits early

Federal benefits are about to disappear for millions of unemployed workers nationwide, much earlier than expected. See below for the states declaring an end to the extended unemployment benefits, and the dates they will expire.

WHEN WERE BENEFITS SUPPOSED TO END AND WHY ARE SOME ENDING EARLY?

Under the American Rescue Plan that was passed in March, unemployed workers were to receive unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021. The list below shows the states starting to opt out from this federal program which had been extended during the pandemic. Some will lose access to these benefits as early as June 12.
Governors in the states that are ending benefits are concerned the extra money is preventing workers from applying for jobs and saying employers should raise pay to attract workers.

STATES ENDING FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EARLY

Alabama: June 19
Alaska: June 12
Arizona: July 10*
Arkansas: June 26
Georgia: June 26
Idaho: June 19
Indiana: July 19
Iowa: June 12
Mississippi: June 12
Missouri: June 12
Montana: June 27*
New Hampshire: June 19
North Dakota: June 19
Ohio: June 26
Oklahoma: June 26
South Carolina: end of June
South Dakota: June 26
Tennessee: July 3
Texas: June 26
Utah: June 26
West Virginia: June 19
Wyoming: June 19
*Arizona and Montana are offering additional stipends or return-to-work bonuses with the loss of expanded benefits.

WHAT PROGRAMS ARE AFFECTED BY THE EARLY EXPIRATION?

The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) federal supplement of $300 per week
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for gig workers not usually eligible for unemployment insurance
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) established by the CARES Act for long-term unemployed who have surpassed the standard number of weeks allotted for state benefits

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF THIS AFFECTS YOU?

Cutting any benefits during such uncertain times leaves unemployed workers vulnerable. Here are some things to keep in mind if your benefits are ending early:

You can still qualify for your state’s normal unemployment benefits if you lose your job or remain unemployed. Only the extended federal benefits established during the pandemic are set to expire September 6, or earlier depending on your state.

Stay connected with your local unemployment office. They will always be a source for any updates in new benefits and will be able to let you know what benefits may be available to you. They are also a source for job re-entry programs, training opportunities, and have access to a current job opening database.

The CDC has extended the eviction moratorium until at least June 30. Depending on your state, you may also qualify for rental assistance or utility forgiveness.

Contact any lenders you owe money to and see if you qualify for any of their assistance programs. Most are willing to work with you during this time.

SNAP and TANF, two food assistance programs, can help supplement your spending.

You may qualify for assistance or subsidized care through state and local initiatives for help with affordable childcare.

How can I get employees to work during a pandemic?

In a matter of months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people work, live, socialize, and more. The surreal new normal has altered personal and professional lives on short notice.

Many employers are now starting to adjust their benefits and incentive packages to lure their employees back to the traditional workplace environment.

WHY ARE SO MANY EMPLOYEES RELUCTANT TO RETURN TO WORK?

There are several reasons employees are choosing to stay at home during the pandemic. Employee safety is the main reason. CDC, Federal, and State recommendations contribute to employee concerns. Relaxed unemployment compensation requirements are another. The safety and well-being of everyone needs to be considered. Do you have safety protocols in place so your employees know they can come to work worry-free?

In some cases where remote work is available, sometimes employees become accustomed to this change and prefer this due to having more flexibility, especially if they have a family and childcare is an expense. When remote work is not available, or no longer available due to restrictions being lifted, employers sometimes need to entice their employees back to work.

WHAT ARE SOME INCENTIVES TO PROVIDE EMPLOYEES TO RETURN TO WORK?

Ensure you have a Covid-19 Safety Policy and Procedure in place accessible to employees
Offer free or reduced parking and/or fuel reimbursement
Offer free bus passes or a pick-up/drop-off shuttle
Provide flexible working arrangements
Hybrid work from home days
Compressed work week – longer hours, shorter days
Provide support to working parents or childcare stipends
Implement mental health and wellness programs
Hero/Hazzard Pay – pay increase for employees deemed as essential
Recruit retired/former staff
Simple thank you emails or cards
Create a relaxation room in addition to your normal break room
Free lunches, take-home meals, or access to meal programs
Arrange for food truck days
Offer bonuses

DO YOUR EMPLOYEES KNOW THEIR WORK ENVIRONMENT IS SAFE?

A covid-19 policy and procedure is key to your employees knowing you care about their safety and you have provided them with information on ways to reduce risk on the job. In addition to this, a separate training should be implemented and required of all employees reporting back at work.
Since safety is a number one concern, if employees do not feel safe, or feel like you are putting other things above their safety, this will discourage employees from coming back to work.

TRANSPORTATION BENEFITS ARE A BIG DEAL

With the shift to remote work, telecommuters are often fitting the bill for the burden of day-to-day utility costs. This has created a windfall, at times, for companies. However, some organizations are reinvesting these savings on their employees.

At the same time, employees are also saving plenty of time and money without the daily commute and more. Historically, employees have nearly two hours each week commuting to and from the office, per the US Census Bureau. As part of the transition back to the traditional office, some employers are offering a few incentives to offset the cost of the daily commute.

Some companies are promising to reimburse fuel and transportation costs, including parking for all returning workers. Others are providing employees with free bus passes during the pandemic.

WHEN THE NORMAL WORK WEEK TRANSFORMS WITH THE TIMES

Have you thought about what it means to work a normal work week? Probably not in a while. With the adjustment of having to come back to work, some companies are opting to provide a hybrid schedule with some office days and some remote days. This allows the adjustment of mainly working from home but giving the employee a little more time before a full adjustment (perhaps with childcare plans) back to work.

A compressed work week is also an option. Instead of working five 8-hour days, why not offer your employees a four 10-hour workday or even a three 13.5-hour workday (adjusting those times longer for your normal lunches). This allows employees to have those off days as free time instead of having to work remote some days.

SOMETIMES ALL WE NEED IS SUPPORT

Two types of support are very important during this time. Childcare support and mental health and wellness support. Parents have been pushed and pulled so many ways during the pandemic, especially with school situations being remote and sometimes going back and forth in person/remote. Employees need to know you understand their situation and if providing monetary childcare incentives is not an option, at least being as flexible as you can with their schedules.

If you don’t have your own health and wellness program, do some research, and find some resources you can share with your employees. Everyone is stressed out right now so providing some resources also shows you understand.

THE SIMPLEST THINGS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

While it might not seem like a big deal, just a thank you or welcome back can really turn someone’s negative day into a positive one. Weekly, personal thank you e-mails are great. If your budget allows, why not have snacks for your group or a day or two where you have breakfast and/or lunch served? Plan a food truck day where you have 2 or 3 different food trucks stop in your parking lot and allow your employees extra time to enjoy the food and outdoors.

Everyone loves a bonus too! Even with the economy where it is right now, some companies are doing very well. Why not pass that on to your employees? Even small $50 gift cards here and there will show you are glad to have your team back.

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Continue to Rise

WHY ARE FRAUDULENT UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS RISING?

Criminals are taking advantage of today’s high unemployment rate and hoping to slip fraudulent unemployment claims past overwhelmed state workers. With the high number of claims, it is also likely that fraud investigations will take longer, and criminals can cash in on profits in the interim. This year has been particularly difficult since the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed bypassed some of the standard safeguards such as verification using previous employers.

Many people find fraudulent unemployment claims particularly upsetting since it requires a Social Security Number (SSN). If you are under the impression that your SSN is secure information, sadly, it is not. After the myriad high-profile data breaches, especially the 2017 Equifax breach, there are millions of SSNs available for sale on the dark web for as little as $4.

While states are trying to tighten identity verification standards, it is a struggle to balance adopting enhanced security measures without causing significant verification delays that impact legitimate claims from workers who have lost their jobs and need funds quickly.

WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT SUSPECTED UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD?

There has been a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims complaints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic involving the use of stolen personally identifiable information (PII).

U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online. The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods. Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals.

Many victims of identity theft related to unemployment insurance claims do not know they have been targeted until they try to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency, receive an IRS Form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance, or get notified by their employer that a claim has been filed while the victim is still employed.

Be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:

 Receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for unemployment benefits
 Unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits
 Any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance
 Unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits
 Fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies

Tips on how to protect yourself:

 Be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers. Be cautious with attachments and embedded links within email, especially from an unknown email sender.
 Make yourself aware of methods fraudsters are using to obtain PII and how to combat them by following security tips issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including:
o Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
o Protecting Against Malicious Code
o Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

 Monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis and request your credit report at least once a year to look for any fraudulent activity. If you believe you are a victim, review your credit report more frequently.

 Immediately report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider.
 If you suspect you are a victim, immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records. Additionally, notify the Internal Revenue Service by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) through irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.

WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO (VIA UCM Specialists)

 Respond timely to UCM claim requests and denote suspected fraud claims so we can respond to the state agency
 UCM will monitor your tax account for fraudulent charges
 UCM is working with state agencies regarding any of our clients experiencing fraud claims
 UCM will assist with any client’s employees who may be experiencing fraud

RELATED NEWS:

 AP News: Data Breach Compromised Info of 1M-Plus Who Sought Benefits
 Government Technology: Unemployment Benefits Claims Fraud: New Threats for 2021