Filing for Unemployment Doesn’t Have to Be So Terrible

A note on a locked door at the New Hampshire Employee Security center, which handles unemployment claims, gives directions to those in need in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, April 16, 2020.

A note on a locked door at the New Hampshire Employee Security center, which handles unemployment claims, gives directions to those in need in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, April 16, 2020. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

State unemployment systems were overwhelmed by filings during the pandemic. A new report lays out basic steps states can take to make the claims process easier for users.

States’ unemployment insurance systems were put to the test this year as millions of people filed for benefits after the coronavirus pandemic forced them out of work.

Some state unemployment offices were able to handle the onslaught of claims better than others.  But many out-of-work Americans encountered overwhelmed systems, clogged phone lines or downed websites that severely delayed their ability to begin receiving benefits.

An immediate overhaul of a state’s unemployment system may be impractical as governments are still reeling from the continued  economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, but a new report recommends basic improvements that can be made in a short amount of time that could drastically improve the user experience.

The report, by the National Employment Law Project, the Century Foundation, and Philadelphia Legal Assistance, analyzed the unemployment offices of states that had recently modernized their computer systems. Even among those states, some simple best practices were not being followed.

Some state unemployment systems did not accept filings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or required users to call into the state office to request a password reset rather than allowing them to ask for a reset online, said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at NELP.

“That is something a state could do overnight or in short order,” she said.

Twenty states have modernized their unemployment insurance systems since 2001, meaning they transitioned from a legacy mainframe system to modern technology that supports web-based services, according to the report. States that modernized generally had an easier time setting up the sort of new payment programs that were required to payout benefits during the pandemic, Evermore said. This was key as the federal government has created new categories of benefits, such as paying benefits for contract workers or the enhanced federal benefits people received from the CARES Act.

But those improvements didn’t guarantee that the user experience was any easier.

“When states modernized, they improved the practice behind the wall,” Evermore said. “It’s more about internal processes than it is about access or usability.”

The report recommends six ways that states can take action now to improve the accessibility of their systems:

  • Make unemployment systems available 24/7 online.
  • Ensure unemployment services websites and applications are mobile-friendly as many low-wage workers rely on their phones for internet access.
  • Implement secure password reset protocols that do not require action by the agency.
  • Use callback systems or chatbots to help deal with the unprecedented volume of calls to unemployment agencies.
  • Create a triage business model that allows junior staff to handle the basic questions and frees up experienced staff to handle more challenging questions.
  • Translate website materials into Spanish and other commonly spoken languages so that residents with limited English do not have to rely on speaking to an interpreter over the phone for basic services.

Evermore is hopeful the failures that unemployment systems experienced during the height of the pandemic will push states to overhaul and improve their systems in the future. In addition to modernizing and making systems more user accessible, she said states should also consider auditing their systems to determine where the choke points are that slow down benefit approval and whether checks in place to detect fraud are working or just slowing the system down.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Erie County, PA offers all local restaurants free digital tools to plan for safe COVID reopening
Erie County, PA, USA
Integrating Complete and Green Streets for Climate-Resilient Sustainable Streets
San Mateo County, CA, USA
Online permitting and approval process during COVID-19 exceeds in-person performance numbers
Markham, ON, Canada

NEXT STORY: First Came Legal Marijuana, Now Comes…Magic Mushrooms?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.