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.
Under the Trade Act of 1974, certain employers can get additional help with their unemployment insurance benefits if their employees have been unemployed because of an increase in imports. That means if there is an increase in the competition from the outside world, and this affects the competitiveness of an employer or their business health and they have to let people go as a result, then the federal government kicks in and helps those employees with their unemployment and will also help them to get another job as quickly as possibly.
That is a win win for both the employer and the employee. Called Federal Trade Assistance, not all employers can get this designation, but if you are an employer who has been hurt by international imports and competition, it is worth looking into. One major manufacturer in Virginia recently just got the Federal Trade Assistance, according to the Governor, Timothy M. Kaine—the Norfolk Ford Assembly Plant.
What the Federal Trade Assistance will do for workers—and the employer—and this Ford plant is provide a wealth of money to help with health care benefits while the people are unemployed, extended jobless benefits, and perhaps most importantly of all, for training to help that person find another job, perhaps even a new career.
The way it works is that even companies that provide parts and services to this Ford plant can also obtain these Trade Act unemployment benefits for their workers, should they get unemployed too as a result of Ford’s economic downturn at its Virginia plant.
The process like this gets into gear when the governor of the state, as well as the employer (Ford in this case), and the United Auto Workers Union, all got together and petitioned the federal government to be part of this federal assistance program.
Just when you thought it was safe to stop talking about unemployment insurance benefits, I’m back. Or as Jack Nicolson says in the “Shining”—“I’m baaaaaaaaaack!” We forget to mention a few of our odds and ends U.S. territories, Districts of Columbia and other areas of the United States that also have employers, a U.S.-based employment labor law system, and plenty of employees to make this system a living breathing part of an employer’s everyday life.
As for one of these so called U.S. territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands, employers on this tropical paradise have to follow the rules of an unemployment insurance system as would many of their counterparts in the continental United States. That means that any employer, for instance, who employers someone in the Virgin Islands must keep records on how much that employee works, how much they earn for that time, and so on—for at least the last five years that the employee has worked for you.
Not only that, employers must be willing to open up many other parts of the personnel records and business records if asked by the Virgin Islands employment authorities. So employers in the Virgin Islands—like every other employer we’ve met so far—is well-motivated to keep very accurate and up to date records on their employees, whether that be their exit interview forms, their resumes, their employment applications, their absence reports, what have you.
And continuing along, as with other employers stateside, employers in the Virgin Islands have to report themselves to the Virgin Island unemployment insurance system as soon as they are up and running. The reason—so the authorities can determine what your tax status will be. If you are found liable, they will then open an account for you and expect quarterly reports from you on employee wages.
I’ve been doing all of this talking about unemployment insurance over the last couple of days. All of that talking, and the fact that it is a New Year, full of new promise and new resolutions, has got me to thinking about the past, and old resolutions and old happenings. It got me to thinking about why unemployment insurance was started in the first place in Virginia and in other states across the Union.
I looked it up, and I figure I might as well pass along what I uncovered to your folks out there, my loyal readers who are still with me in 2007. The unemployment insurance system was first created in 1925, with the passage of the Social Security Act. The way it is set up, Virginia and every other state administers the system on its own, along with Washington DC, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The U.S. Department of Labor can help out to oversee the system when necessary, but for the most part the system was designed from the get go so that each state could operate the unemployment insurance system on its own, in pretty much its own way. Hence, the reason I have been talking seemingly nonstop for the last few days about how the systems are different in each state.
That means that states like Virginia and every other state gets to charge their own tax rates, pay out their own level of benefits, and determine which employers are eligible for the taxes and which aren’t, along with determining which laid off employees are eligible for benefits or not.
Take Virginia’s system. According to the official figures I got from the Virginia Employment Commission, in Virginia alone more than $339 million was paid out in unemployment benefits in the year of 2005. That’s a lot of mullah. More than 110,000 individuals got their share of that money, for an average of nearly 13 weeks each, at $237 per week.
Not all employing units in Virginia are subject to the taxing provisions of the unemployment compensation law. Coverage (tax liability) is determined by the number of workers employed, the duration and nature of services performed, and the amount of wages paid for services in employment. Once the liability conditions are met for your type of employment, you are required to report the total payroll for the entire year, by quarter, and pay the appropriate amount of taxes.
Employers shall post and maintain in a place readily accessible to employees all Virginia Unemployment Insurance posters. Also, if an employer is later determined not liable, the Virginia Unemployment Insurance posters must be removed.
If you are other than an agricultural, domestic, or nonprofit employing unit, you are liable if you have one or more employees who work for any portion of a day in twenty different weeks in a calendar year or if your total gross payroll for any calendar quarter is $1,500 or more.
If you are an agricultural employing unit, you are liable if you employ ten or more workers for some portion of a day in twenty different weeks during a calendar year or if you have a payroll of $20,000 or more in a quarter. Either the farm operator or the crew leader can be the employer.
If you are a domestic service employing unit, you are liable if you paid wages of $1,000 or more in a quarter. The following occupations are usually considered as domestic service in private households. Inside Workers: cooks, laundresses, maids, sitters, butlers, personal secretaries, managers of personal affairs, companions, porters, and nurses. Outside Workers: gardeners, caretakers, chauffeurs, and other maintenance workers. Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) are generally exempted from coverage.
Employing units that are not subject to the taxing provisions of the law may submit an application for voluntary election of coverage to the Virginia Employment Commission. If the Commission approves the application, the employing unit becomes liable for at least two full calendar years and is bound by the laws and regulations in the same manner as other covered employers. This also includes the displaying of Virginia Unemployment Insurance posters. The election will be approved beginning with the current year.