Twenty-two states plus Puerto Rico will receive more than $6 million in federal funds to improve security in their unemployment insurance programs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This is the fourth consecutive year that such awards have been made.
The Department of Labor today announced that $6,008,840 will go to 22 states to improve their information system technology. The money will fund programs that
Make it easier to apply for unemployment
Reduce fraudulent unemployment claims
Keep client’s personal information more secure
“Data security improvements implemented with the help of these funds will strengthen the integrity of our state unemployment insurance systems,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. “It is more than reasonable that tax-paying workers and employers expect states to continuously improve the performance of their UI systems.”
The awards will promote the use of National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines to identify and eliminate weaknesses in Unemployment Insurance (UI) systems. These upgrades will make it possible for the states to be security certified and receive accreditation of their security precautions.
This year’s awards go to Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.
The average award is $261,253.91. However, individual awards vary from $25,000 in Wyoming to $583,637 — more than half a million dollars — in Colorado.
States with the highest awards include California with $494,500, Georgia with $571,726, Iowa with $439,940, and New Hampshire with $474,659. Puerto Rico received $355,500.
States with the lowest awards include Alabama with $99,508, Illinois and Kentucky each with $100,000, Indiana with $122,129, North Dakota with $48,845 and South Carolina with $94,955. A complete listing of states and awards is available from the U.S. Department of Labor website.
Part of the funds are earmarked to correct specific security concerns in several states that were identified through the Federal Information Security Management Act audits conducted by the Office of the Inspector General.
Some of the security enhancements include risk management, contingency planning and improving incident response capability. Others will enhance data center security and data integrity or provide security training and awareness.
In some states, the funds will be used to upgrade hardware and soft ware to increase system security and IT security documentation.
“Unemployment insurance plays a critical role in helping workers persevere through tough times,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “This funding will boost states’ efforts to secure UI systems against fraud and ensure that those in need receive assistance.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, Unemployment Insurance benefits businesses, communities and the economy, as well as providing a welcome cushion for workers and their families. Unemployment Insurance was created in 1935 under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to ease the effects of the Great Depression, when millions of Americans were out of work. The plague of unemployment meant that people couldn’t buy good or services, which contributed to the economies downward spiral.
Unemployment Insurance is a federally mandated program administered by the states. Regulations and benefits vary slightly from state to state. The program is supported by taxes paid by employers.
State Unemployment Insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own, as long as the workers meet certain other eligibility requirements set by state law.
In general, to collect unemployment benefits, one must file weekly or biweekly claims. Any earnings or offers of work should also be reported. In many states these claims are filed by mail or telephone. In some cases, workers can file unemployment claims online.
In order to be eligible for unemployment, a job-seeker must be able to work and actively looking for work. If requested, they must appear at the Unemployment Office on the date and time scheduled. Failure to report may result in benefits being denied.
Job-seekers who file for unemployment are usually required to register with the state employment service. Generally, workers who are 100% disabled do not qualify for unemployment insurance, although in some states they may qualify for short-term disability pay.
The North Dakota FMLA basically safeguards the employee’s job in circumstances like a medical emergency (of a parent or personal), the arrival of a newborn, the adoption of a kid, or your own serious illness. Its complete name is the Family and Medical Leave Act and it allows workers to take as many as 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave in situations like those just mentioned.
In these days, with Father’s Day approaching and Mother’s day just past, it is very timely to remember the content of this act. Nobody is free from emergencies. Illnesses, accidents, pregnancy and births, and these are the type of situations that can force someone to leave the job for days, or weeks. Thanks to the FMLA law, when the worker is involved in such circumstances, he or she is protected from losing their job.
There are some conditions involved in taking FMLA leave, however. An employer should inform the employee in writing about how and when he or she must get in touch with the workplace. The worker must proceed in accordance of what is expected by the employer, and to secure that his or her position. The employer must describe the requirements clearly on paper. Following these guidelines will ensure that the employee maintains a good relationship with the employer.
Public employees and schoolteachers are covered by this act, regardless of the size of the organization that hired them. And every company with 50 or more employees is also covered by the FMLA. Posters including benefits and eligibility under the FMLA should be posted in every workplace.
If the employee has medical insurance paid with a salary deduction, during the FMLA leave the company can continue deductions with the purpose of maintaining the medical benefits. These payments can be repaid by the employee when they return to work.
North Dakota employee benefit plans will continue to include mental health treatment coverage on a par with medical and surgical coverage thanks to the extension of the bill known as MHPA.
The bill is the Mental Health Parity Act. It has been extended to December 31 of 2007 after being signed into law by the President.
The extension involves North Dakota employee benefit plans. The law is called the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA). Before it was originally signed into existence in 1996, health insurance plans could legally have large discrepancies in their coverage limits for physical or mental health treatments. For example, physical health treatment coverage limits might be $100,000 yearly, but mental health limits could be one-tenth or even one-twentieth of that. Such discrepancies are no longer legal.
The original bill included what is called a “sunset clause.” That means the bill had an automatic expiration date. In this case, it was September 31 of 2001. Five amendments since then have assured its continuance beyond the “sunset” date.
The agency overseeing compliance with the laws affecting group health plans is called EBSA. That stands for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The agency was set up in 1974. At that time, its mandate was to enforce the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of that same year.
Mental health treatments covered typically include stays in either the mental health wing of a medical hospital or a mental hospital, or psychiatric center for ailments like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia; time in a rehabilitation facility (“rehab”) for treatment of drug or alcohol dependency issues; and visits to psychologists, licensed therapists, or psychiatrists.
The new expiration date of the Mental Health Parity Act is December 31, 2007.
The EBSA was created in 1974 for the sole purpose of enforcing pension issues through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. Since its inception, it has gone through a number of name changes. In 1986, it became the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA). Then in 2003, it became a sub-cabinet level agency overseen by an Assistant Labor Secretary. Its new mandate includes dealing equally with violations of health care laws and pension laws.
In North Dakota, the state officials give new employers 20 days to get their act together and file with them after they first start employing people. That means from the first day of your first employee, you have about three weeks to file with the North Dakota unemployment insurance system to see if you are liable to pay unemployment insurance taxes.
Then once the state determines that you are liable, you have to file a form called the Employer’s Contribution and Wage Reports, each and every quarter that you are liable for unemployment insurance payments. You can do this online at the North Dakota government Web site for those of us in the 21st century when it comes to technology. You can even make payments from your company account through electronic funds transfer. The forms and the payments must be made by the end of the month following the end of the quarter. If you’re late, state officials reserve the right to charge you a penalty fee as well as interest on your taxes.
As in some of the other states that we have looked at, in North Dakota new employers are charged at first the “new employer” tax rate. This rate lasts for at least six quarters if you are a non construction employer, for 10 quarters if you are a construction related employer. After that time period, then you get what is called the experience rated tax rate. That rate is based on how well you performed in the previous year—meaning how well you paid your taxes (on time and to the full amount) and how many of your former employees had been getting unemployment benefits.
If you are not necessarily a new employer but the new owners of a previous business that you bought or acquired, you can ask to have the experience rating tax rate from the previous owner if it was a good one. But if you get that rating, you are also held liable for any benefits payments that that previous owner was making to laid off workers.
If you are planning to file an unemployment insurance claim in North Dakota, you should know that you cannot receive benefits for any week prior to the week you file. So if you want to receive all the monies that are due to you, it is very important that you file your claim as soon as you become unemployed.
I noticed that North Dakota’s unemployment insurance claims can be filed in person at the unemployment insurance claims center or via the Internet. You’ll need some basic information, like your social security number, name and address, and documentation of your military service or Federal service in the past 18 months, alien registration number if you aren’t a citizen, and the name and number of your union hall. You also need to be prepared to answer some questions, like what type of work you’re skilled to do and the wages you are willing to accept.
In addition to these requirements, in order to qualify for North Dakota Unemployment Insurance benefits you need to be available and willing to work. You will have to establish your monetary eligibility by showing income over the past full year. You also will need to show that you became unemployed through no fault of your own.
All of the details about unemployment insurance, as well as other North Dakota and Federal labor laws, are printed onto posters that are available to employers for display in the workplace. These displays help the employers and employees to be aware of the law. I think they also help people to know where and how to file claims, report violations, and so on. By putting the North Dakota labor laws out there in front of everyone, employers keep them aware of changes in the laws, too.