Punch: New Unemployed Aid Grants Aim to Close Awareness ‘Gap’

Monday Morning Reflections for Workplace Observers

DOL’s latest unemployment aid push | Hill Curtain Call retired?

Rebecca Rainey: The US Department of Labor wants states to compete for funds to test new methods of raising awareness of unemployment benefits in the workforce, part of a broader effort to strengthen the safety net of unemployment insurance.

The funding — $15 million to be divided equally among the five states that come up with the best ideas — stems from the department’s ongoing deployment of $2 billion from Congress allocated to the DOL as part of the US rescue plan (Public Law 117-2), almost a year after its adoption.

The DOL Employment and Training Administration, which oversees the federal state unemployment system, says the delay in advancing the navigator scholarships was deliberate and that he wanted to solve the technical problems that the state programs were facing before distributing the money.

“Part of the reason it took a little while to get this out was that we really wanted to get it right,” Michele EvermoreETA’s senior policy adviser on unemployment relief, Punching In told Punching In.

The goal is for states to design and test new approaches to ensure that workers know they are entitled to unemployment benefits and how to apply. The focus will be on people who have lost low-wage jobs, those with poor English skills, women, people of color and other groups who typically struggle to access unemployment support. .

The application process will be competitive – the department is in search of an effective formula which could be applied elsewhere.

“Instead of having browsers in 53 states at a time, decisions were made to scale it down so we could try it in about five states first and make sure we understand how it works,” explained Evermore. “So we’ll be able to make the necessary changes to make it a bigger thing if it does what we think it will. But, right now, we need a proof of concept.

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris at his side, discusses a temporary increase in the child tax credit that was included in the US bailout, at a media event in July.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The deluge of claims for benefits caused by the pandemic in 2020 has revealed disjointed nature of the system, with the DOL setting the general structure and paying for the administration of benefit programs, while the 53 state or territory unemployment agencies set the rules and pay out assistance. Fraud was endemic and delays extremely frequent. Gaps in public awareness were also a problem, but that was nothing new.

“There’s a disconnect between people who think they deserve an unemployment insurance benefit,” Evermore said.

She pointed to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018 which found that 59% of unemployed workers who had not applied for unemployment benefits mistakenly thought they were ineligible. Another 12% cited “attitudes or barriers to applying,” including “that they didn’t know about unemployment insurance or had trouble with the application process.”

So far, ETA has paid out at least $195.7 million in US bailout grants to state agencies to deal with pandemic emergency unemployment program fraud and to strengthen cybersecurity, according to the DOL website.

In December, the DOL’s new Unemployment Insurance Modernization Office announced that it had chosen New Jersey and Arkansas to pilot a new unemployment claim system that other states could eventually adopt.

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Austin R. Ramsey: Broad retirement access legislation has become a popular choice when the guys on Capitol Hill talk about bipartisan measures that could pass Congress this year.

After all, SECURE Act 2.0 would be a curtain call for lawmakers after passing the first-generation bill in 2019, which expanded group plans and gave retirees more time to accumulate savings.

But the devil is in the details, of course, and that means finding consensus on three very different legislative proposals (or more, depending on who you talk to), not to mention the difficulty of passing anything substantial in a midterm election year.

Political disagreements over a controversial mandate for workplace pensions and an expensive refundable tax credit could upend efforts to craft legislation for 2.0.

Without these elements, industry watchers fear Congress will produce legislation that fails to increase how many Americans are saving for retirement and how much they are setting aside.

“The SECURE Act started by giving that little nudge for employers to set up retirement plans and for workers to start saving,” said Alex AssaleyPresident of the National Association of Plan Advisors and Managing Director of AFS 401(k) Retirement Services in Bethesda, Maryland. “We used a carrot, and now we need a little stick.”

Bills introduced in the last legislative session would have required that 401(k)-type pension plans automatically enroll new recruitsor even require employers who do not already offer pension plans to do so.

But one unique approach to retirement savings has angered some practitioners and could be a tough sell to the Senate, said Fred Rishpartner of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.

Another major hurdle to bipartisan consensus is a refundable “savings credit” that appeared at one point in the Democrats’ Build Back Better plan and the senator. Ron Wyden‘s (D-Ore.) Encouraging Americans to Save Act (S. 2452). The credits would serve as a counterpart to annual contributions, incentivizing workers to increase their deferrals and employers to start plans without counterpart.

“These credits are so important that they could also be a game changer in encouraging the formation of new plans,” Reish said.

But then there is the question of price. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a similar tax credit proposal in 2011 would cost $29.8 billion, a ballpark that could present unfriendly limits for more than a few lawmakers if the credit is part of the project. new generation bill this year.

We knock. Daily work report subscribers, please check for updates during the week and do not hesitate to contact us.

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