NELP: States’ Unemployment Systems Buckled as Jobless Claims Grew

The National Employment Law Project released a report this week describing how state computer systems that are outdated and overwhelmed led to unreliable claims processing and delayed payments.

Some of the highlights:

Even as the demand for unemployment benefits has declined from record levels, thousands of workers have faced significant challenges accessing their UI benefits. The report profiles case studies of recent service disruptions in California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Nevada.

In California during fiscal year 2011-12, for example, call volumes were such that 17 million out of 72 million calls (24 percent) were not even able to access the automated phone system. Of the nearly 30 million callers who requested to speak with an agent, only 4.8 million callers were successful.

The report calls on Congress to provide additional funding for staffing and information technology upgrades. To address access issues such as jammed phone lines, the report recommends more aggressive federal oversight through customer service standards and targeted enforcement. Not only would these measures facilitate prompt payment for laid-off workers trying to re-enter the labor market, but they would also improve efficiency and increase states’ ability to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse.