Make the unemployment comp system more accessible
Posted February 25, 2021 in Press Releases
Claimants need to be involved in improvements, Policy Matters Ohio testifies
Ohio policymakers should make the unemployment compensation system more accessible to claimants so that Ohioans who have been laid off can obtain benefits on a timely basis. That was the key message in testimony delivered today by Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, to the Unemployment Compensation Modernization & Improvement Council. Created by the General Assembly, the council is to recommend how to improve administration of the UC system.
While making the system more accessible may seem like an obvious objective, Schiller said, that “has not been the hallmark of Ohio’s UC system. For most of the last two decades, prior to the pandemic, a smaller share of unemployed Ohioans qualified for benefits than the national average – just 21.6% in the fourth quarter of 2019.” Schiller made a dozen recommendations for improving access, highlighted by the need for involvement by claimants and claimant representatives in the process. They were:
- Change overpayment policy to allow hardship waivers in the regular UC program.
- Make notices more understandable; further improve mobile access.
- Don’t equate federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the regular unemployment compensation program.
- Don’t overemphasize automated tools for fraud prevention or look to private, for-profit vendors as the solution.
- Request regular reports and transparency from the “public-private partnership” advising ODJFS.
- Reevaluate staffing and use of part-time “intermittents.”
- Bring in experts from the U.S. Department of Labor, other states and U.S. Digital Response.
- Ask the agency to break into categories reasons claims are being held up.
- Involve claimants and claimant representatives to ensure that the information technology overhaul maximizes customer responsiveness and accessibility.
- Review access for people with low incomes and people of color; publicly report demographic data on cases being held and benefit denials.
- Expand and promote the Shared Work program.
- Review state funding for UC administration and make sure support is adequate.