The U.S. Department of Labor today announced grants to 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for Unemployment Insurance program integrity, performance and system improvement projects. The grants will support the integrity of the UI program through the prevention, detection and recovery of improper UI benefit payments by assisting states in addressing the core root causes of UI improper payments, updating information technology system infrastructures, and expanding their use of re-employment and eligibility assessments, which have been shown to be an effective strategy for reducing improper payments.
"Unemployment Insurance is a critical lifeline for people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, and the Department of Labor is responsible for safeguarding the program so that it remains available to those who need it," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This funding will help ensure that state UI programs run efficiently and effectively for the long term."
Activities supported through today's awards of a total of $169.9 million include conducting cross-matching with the National Directory of New Hires to prevent UI payments to re-employed claimants; implementing the State Information Data Exchange System and related messaging tools to target improper payments of those moving across state lines; and implementing the Treasury Offset Program administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which allows offsetting UI overpayments with federal income tax returns.
Additionally, three grants are being awarded to consortia in multiple states for projects designed to improve overall program quality, accountability, performance and integrity. The consortia approach minimizes the cost of multiple states implementing expensive system redesigns while achieving important program integrity functionality. Since 2009, the department has funded three consortia involving 11 states. This new investment will fund an additional three state consortia involving nine states. Consortia grants will be used to design and implement UI tax and/or benefit systems and implement technology-based tools designed to prevent, detect or collect and recover improper UI payments. Under the terms of the grant, the systems and tools must be open-source, allowing all states to benefit from them. Past consortia grants have resulted in new software solutions that incorporate important integrity functions, such as improved cross-matching, and the integration of Separation Information Data Exchange Systems to facilitate improved communication between states and employers regarding individual eligibility.
Finally, eight states are receiving funds to expand their use of re-employment and eligibility assessments. In-person assessments include the development of a re-employment plan for claimants; the provision of labor market information that is appropriate to the claimants' locations and employment prospects; a complete review of claimants' eligibility for UI benefits; and a referral to re-employment services and/or training separate from the UI program. Research has shown that re-employment and eligibility assessments are effective at reducing improper payments and saving money in the UI system.
These integrity investments will work in conjunction with other strategies being utilized to hold states accountable for improved prevention, detection and recovery of improper payments, including newly required annual reporting on state actions to address improper payments, new state performance measures, and quarterly tracking of state implementation of core strategies and individual state improper payment data. Individual state improper payment data can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/dol/maps/map-ipia.htm.
Editor's note: A complete list of funds awarded follows this release.