Americans in need can’t wait. They need Congress to act!
Following up on the release of its 2021 legislative priorities, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) penned a letter to Congress this week calling urgently for the extension of staffing flexibility in supporting the nation’s unemployment insurance (UI) programs.
If Congress fails to act before September 6, state UI agencies could again be plunged into chaos with eligible applicants facing even longer delays in receiving benefits.
Specifically, the letter calls for an extension of Section 2106 of the CARES Act, which authorized staffing flexibility for states to administer and operate their UI programs. The letter highlights that states have heavily relied on this flexibility to process a large backlog of claims, which have persisted even as vaccination rates have increased.
This staffing flexibility has been used by 41 states, led by both Democratic and Republican Governors, and has proven to be an invaluable tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases surge in parts of the country, it is clear that unemployment claims will continue at high levels and backlogs will persist.
Take just a few of the recent headlines that tell a story of continued disruption, delays and problems within state UI systems:
- California: Residents still struggle to receive unemployment checks amid state backlog. The Employment Development Department admits they still have a backlog of tens of thousands of claims. One individual says he has been trying to resolve an issue with his claim for nine months, to no avail.
- Georgia: Unemployed still seeing long delays from labor department despite steep decline in jobless rate. One man in Georgia tells a story familiar to many others– “I’ve tried calling, been calling pretty much every day since January…It goes straight to an automated voice message system. You leave messages, and I’ve never received a phone call back after leaving messages.”
- Kansas: Kansas Department of Labor says unemployment payments will be delayed due to ‘technical difficulties’. The KDOL has said the technical difficulties could delay the deposit of payments for as much as 5 to 7 days. Families who are relying on this assistance can’t afford to wait a week to receive the payments they were promised.
- Kentucky: Kentucky having trouble hiring for unemployment office, Beshear officials say. The state is looking to hire 90 people for the state’s unemployment office, but can’t find people to fill these critical jobs.
- Virginia: Workers say Virginia’s increasingly complicated unemployment system feels designed to force them to give up. In Virginia, an Army veteran has been unable to get Virginia’s program to accept his Army veteran ID, even after weeks of reaching out and trying to work with the VEC to fix the problem. “It’s organized chaos, it’s discouraging. Why make it so difficult? It’s not necessary…So many people I’ve run across that I know have just quit trying.”
The current staffing flexibility is set to expire on September 6, 2021, with Congress set to recess for August, and not returning until after the provision expires. The unwillingness of Congress to authorize the use of temporary workers to reduce unemployment benefits backlogs will cause hard-working Americans to have even longer delays in getting the payments they deserve.
CAMI stands with NASWA in calling for an extension of this flexibility to protect American workers and families who are in need of essential aid.