UI Forum (ADP Unemployment Group)
Volume 14 | Issue 4
Disaster Assistance Available to Workers Affected by Hurricanes
Hurricane season has impacted many states in recent weeks. Individuals whose jobs have been lost or interrupted may be eligible for disaster-related benefits, either through a state’s regular unemployment insurance (UI) program or the federal program known as Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA).
DUA is available to persons unemployed as a direct result of a declared disaster and who do not qualify for regular UI benefits. The program is administered by state unemployment agencies on behalf of the federal government. Individuals generally file for DUA as they would a UI claim, or in accordance with a state’s instructions, since the agency must first determine eligibility under the regular program before considering federal disaster assistance. DUA benefit amounts and continuing weekly eligibility are determined under state UI law provisions.
Since DUA is a federally funded, any disaster benefits paid under this program are not charged to employers’ unemployment accounts. However, relief of charge provisions vary among states, if benefits are paid under the regular state UI program and the separation is disaster-related.
Specific state DUA and UI information, including claim filing instructions, with regard to Hurricanes Ike, Gustav and Fay can be found at:
- Florida - http://www.floridajobs.org/ - Florida has employer non-charge provisions under its regular UI program, if a claimant's unemployment is due to a natural disaster.
- Louisiana - http://www.laworks.net/homepage.asp - Louisiana has no provisions in its regular UI program laws for relief of charges to employers. However, Governor Bobby Jindal recently signed Executive Order No. BJ 2008-91, which suspends employer benefit charging law provisions for disaster-related claims.
- Texas - http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/ikeinfo.html - Texas has employer noncharge provisions under its regular UI program, if a claimant's unemployment is due to a natural disaster.
Information and Web links for all state disasters can be found at: http://www.careeronestop.org/disasterrecoveryservices/default.aspx.
Final Rules for Iowa “Participation” Law Expected Soon
Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) expects to issue final “participation” rules sometime in November 2008. The rules set forth how the unemployment insurance (UI) agency will administer an “integrity” law amendment enacted earlier this year, regarding failure to participate in fact-finding efforts to determine a claimant’s unemployment benefit eligibility.
UI Integrity is a federal and state initiative that focuses on reducing benefit overpayments by emphasizing receipt of timely, complete separation information at the claim level.
Iowa’s amended law is intended to reduce UI overpayments.
Statutory language has been added, which says if an employer fails to participate in the fact-finding process and it is later determined a claimant was overpaid UI benefits; the agency will not attempt to recover the overpayment from the individual.
The proposed rule defines employer “participation” as submitting detailed facts about a claimant’s separation of sufficient quantity and quality that if rebutted would result in a favorable initial determination to the employer. The rule also says if live testimony at the fact-finding hearing is not provided, the employer must provide a contact name and telephone number with first-hand information.
The public comment period on the proposed rules concluded on August 19, 2008. There are no significant changes expected to be made to the final rules.
Procedures are already in place to ensure compliance with the fact-finding process. Employers are reminded to provide full separation details and supporting documentation at the claim level, including the contact name and phone number of a person with first-hand knowledge, so your ADP Unemployment Group claims specialist can properly participate in fact-finding, on your behalf, as outlined in the law and rules.
Washington Emergency UI Rule Implemented for Voluntary Quits
A recent Washington State Supreme Court decision has necessitated the issuing of an emergency rule by the Employment Security Department (ESD) regarding voluntary quit separations. The “Spain and Batey” decision opens the door for more claimants to be found eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for “good cause” quits.
Current UI law lists 11 reasons in which a person may voluntarily quit with good cause and collect benefits. Claimants Spain and Batey did not leave employment for any of the established reasons, so benefits were denied. The voluntary quit law was subsequently challenged by the two claimants in separate cases – Spain v. Employment Security Department and Batey v. Employment Security Department. Both cases ultimately went before the state Supreme Court. The Court unanimously ruled the 11 statutory “good cause” reasons were not exclusive, and that the ESD has discretion to decide if there are additional “good cause” reasons to voluntarily leave employment.
The ESD filed the emergency rule to be in compliance with the Supreme Court decision, while permanent rule-making follows its normal process.
The emergency rule lists the following as “stand alone” reasons for a voluntary quit with good cause:
- Accepting a bona fide offer of work
- Illness or disability, or the death, illness or disability of an immediate family member
- Moving to accompany a transferred military spouse
- Domestic violence or stalking protection for an individual or immediate family member
- A pay reduction of 25% or more
- A reduction in hours of 25% or more
- A change in worksite, which results in travel difficulties or increased distance
- Unsafe working conditions than an employer has failed to remedy
- Illegal worksite activities that an employer has failed to correct
- Work related changes that violate sincere religious or moral beliefs
- Entering an approved apprentice training program
The rule specifies there may be other factors that constitute a good cause quit, such as:
- Substantial deterioration of the work
- Unreasonable hardship
- Commissioner approved training
- Other changes in working conditions
Some unemployment decisions, including the Spain and Batey cases are being remanded to the ESD for reconsideration, based on the Court decision and the subsequent emergency rule. The ADP Unemployment Group will monitor the situation and pursue benefit disqualifications on remanded cases, where appropriate.
UI Taxable Wage Base – At a Glance
The following chart details the 2009 wage bases that have been announced, as well as expectations for the remaining states. UI taxable wage bases for 2008 are listed for comparison purposes.
(1) Expected to increase in 2009
(2) Unless there is a law change, no increase in 2009
(3) Unsure at this time how trust fund level will affect 2009 wage base
Arizona – Employers need to be aware of an Appeals Office procedure change. During the course of an unemployment hearing, the Administrative Law Judge may ask for consent to e-mail the hearing decision. To ensure continued seamless service, if asked, employers should advise the Administrative Law Judge that the decision needs to be mailed to the ADP Unemployment Group.
Colorado – Senate Bill 114 was recently enacted, requiring Employee Leasing Companies/Professional Employer Organizations (ELC-PEO) to obtain state certification in order to conduct business in the state. The UI agency issued certification notices to PEO’s, which were to be completed by October 6, 2008. Tax and wage reporting changes take effect January 1, 2009. Details about the changes can be found at: http://www.coworkforce.com/UIT/EmpLeasLeg.asp.
Utah – As of August 4, 2008, Utah government agencies moved to a 4-day work week, indefinitely. This includes all departments of the Unemployment Insurance Agency - Department of Workforce Services - claims, benefit charges, adjudication, appeals, and tax. The change is the "Working 4 Utah" initiative implemented by Governor Jon Hustman, as a way to reduce costs and conserve energy. Since unemployment offices will be closed on Fridays, the hours of operation are Monday- Thursday, 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Mountain Time.
Washington – As of June 12, 2008, persons who voluntarily quit for classroom training as part of an apprenticeship program, may be eligible for UI benefits. “Apprenticeship” is defined as a combination of class instruction and on-the-job training for a highly skilled occupation. The program must be approved by the Washington State Apprenticeship Training Council, in order to qualify for benefits. Benefits paid under this circumstance will not be charged to the employer’s unemployment account.
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