On March 11, the Ohio Chamber shared recommendations to improve the administration of the state’s unemployment compensation system with members of the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Modernization & Improvement Council. The chamber’s testimony highlighted the experiences of our members during the last twelve months including having fraudulent claims filed in the name of owners or employees and prolonged claims processing times.
The council, which was formed following the enactment of House Bill 614 last year, is charged with evaluating the administration of the state’s unemployment system and making recommendations to improve the system. These recommendations may be accomplished through legislation or by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) agreeing to make the proposed upgrades.
In the Ohio Chamber’s testimony, we told council members how our members experiences mirrored those of the claimants. For instance, due to the historic number of initial claims filings in the first few months of the pandemic, requests for separation information were sent to employers after a significant period had lapsed from the claim’s filing date. Likewise, as the prevalence of fraud increased, employers found themselves answering employee questions about identify theft and receiving requests for separation information for individuals they still employ.
The chamber’s testimony also underscored how the issues faced in Ohio are the same problems states across the country are facing. To highlight these common issues, we shared findings from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Inspector General which uncovered more than $68 billion in fraudulent payments within the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA). The Inspector General’s report also discovered a single Social Security Number was used to apply for benefits in 40 states and a single criminal actor in Maryland was responsible for $500 million in fraudulent PUA programs.
To improve customer service in the future, the Ohio Chamber recommended to the council that ODJFS create a business services division within their unemployment office that will focus on sharing needed information with Ohio’s employers. This division could mirror the employer services division within the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and it could hold employer townhalls to disseminate information about important updates or new programs. Ohio Chamber members also recommended making it easier to participate in the SharedWorks Ohio program and to make greater use of technology to speed up claims processing.
The coronavirus pandemic was the perfect storm to expose the weaknesses in our country’s unemployment system; and at the Ohio Chamber, we believe the work of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization & Improvement Council is an important part of developing solutions to assure Ohioans – both employees and employers – are better served in the future.