The National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), which represents all 50 state workforce agencies, D.C. and U.S. territories, recently released its 2021 legislative priorities. Among the 2021 priorities is extending state staffing flexibility for the continued operation of Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs past its current expiration on September 6, 2021.
NASWA notes that “states have relied on non-merit staffing for hiring temporary staff or rehiring retirees or former employees…in order to process the elevated number of claims.” Although the world has begun returning to normal, it is clear that our economic concerns related to the pandemic are not over — and the demand for UI still exists. For example, the Department of Labor reported that for the week ending on June 12, there were 412,000 initial unemployment claims, an increase of 37,000 from the previous week’s revised level, and remains above the 225,000 initial claims filed in March 2020.
It’s also important to note that the Inspector General at the Department of Labor recently audited the use of staffing flexibility in 12 states, and found that despite staffing flexibility, the number of state employees nearly doubled. Staffing flexibility supplements rather than supplants full time state workers, and this blended workforce provides better services for individuals.
NASWA’s members are on the frontlines of UI, and have been throughout the pandemic. They have seen firsthand both the challenges in responding to an unprecedented economic crisis, and how partnerships with nonprofit partners and reputable contractors have helped improve response times and program integrity. CAMI strongly agrees with NASWA that staffing flexibility for UI must not be allowed to expire in September, and must be extended to not only help in ongoing pandemic response, but to improve the UI program for the future as we grapple with climate, economic and other disasters.