People wait in line at a food distribution location in the South Bronx in New York on March 10, 2021.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images
It’s been about a year since millions of Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the early days of the Covid pandemic.
This anniversary seems to raise administrative problems in some states. They can lead to late benefits or unexpectedly low benefit.
“I think it’s a catch that catches certain people,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation.
Unemployment benefit claims increased in the week of March 14, 2020 as the coronavirus sent shock waves across the labor market.
According to the Ministry of Labor, more than 24 million people applied for benefits in the next month. Millions more were applied in the weeks that followed.
Such people reach the end of their “year of achievement”.
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People who wish to claim benefits after this point in time – which is one year after the application for support – usually trigger a check by state employment agencies.
States re-examine a worker’s recent income history to see if they are still eligible for benefits.
Usually someone who has not found a job during the performance year is not entitled to further help. This could apply to a large group of workers – about a quarter of the unemployed had been unemployed for at least a year in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Someone who has found a job but has a significant gap in the job is generally entitled to a lower weekly benefit. (They may also not be eligible, depending on the state and total income.)
American rescue plan
Meanwhile, the American rescue plan extended unemployment benefits for workers through Labor Day.
These two competing forces appear to be causing some problems for states and, in some cases, delaying employee benefits.
However, according to Michele Evermore, Senior Unemployment Insurance Policy Advisor at the Department of Labor, the issues vary by state and depending on the specific program that pays benefits at the end of the benefit year.
“As we discussed last year, any administrative hurdle will be a challenge for applicants and there is no hurdle that any individual worker can overcome,” Evermore said in an email.
For example, the California Department of Employment Development announced Thursday that most would have to reapply for help at the end of their performance year.
The agency announced that it could take up to three weeks to process these applications.
Members of the National Guard outside a Department of Employment Development building near the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on January 17, 2021.
JOSH EDELSON | AFP | Getty Images
Twenty-one days is the standard barometer for “timely” payment of unemployment benefits. But this also means that some people can be without income for a few weeks.
New claims must undergo fraud and identity checks to protect, the California Employment Agency said.
“The massive expansion of federal benefits under the American rescue plan comes at a time when many Californians are also reaching the expiration of their original benefit entitlements,” the agency said.
The Georgian Ministry of Labor also forecast a performance gap as assistance needs to be requested again.
“When you’ve reached the end of your performance year, you’ll need to file a new claim the day after your performance year ends,” the agency said in a tweet.
The agency recommended that workers continue to request a payment while the application is being processed, saying that all eligible payments will be issued once the new application is reviewed.
This can take up to 14 days or more for some workers, the Georgian labor office said.
Additionally, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported this week on technology issues related to the anniversary of the year.
“The OESC team continues to work on resolving the reported registration issues related to the end dates of the performance year,” the agency said in a tweet on Thursday.
However, some states appear to have taken proactive steps to prevent hiccups for workers, Stettner said.
For example, the New Jersey Labor Department claimed Thursday that it was the only state that had automated the performance year review process. To date, the agency has automatically re-submitted around 275,000 jobless claims, it said.
The states had to deal with a year of historically increased unemployment claims and at the same time take measures to combat unemployment fraud from international crime rings and to implement new federal programs.
The achievement year problem is another complication in an already stressed system, Evermore said.
“Anything that adds to the workload on government agencies will generally make it harder for applicants to get all the things they want – there is no loophole in the system to take on additional work,” she said.
Multiple layers of unemployment programs created during the pandemic have puzzled workers.
For example, not all people have to reapply for benefits. That’s likely the case for self-employed and other workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Support Program who haven’t worked in the past year, Stettner said.
Aside from a benefit gap, worker advocates are concerned that states are incorrectly applying new rules to limit large reductions in weekly benefits.
The US $ 900 billion Covid Relief Act passed in December provided protection designed to limit benefits cut to less than US $ 25 per week. This applies to people who found little work during the pandemic and would otherwise have qualified for a much lesser state benefit based on that work experience.
However, this update may not be applied consistently, said Stettner.