Congressman Steven Horsford and Senator Ron Wyden Introduce Legislation to Modernize State Unemployment Insurance Systems

March 1, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV-04) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act. This bill that would make federal investments in state unemployment insurance systems to prevent fraud and address the widespread delays and technical difficulties that job seekers have encountered while filing for unemployment insurance.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, my office has heard from thousands of Nevadans who have faced delays in receiving unemployment insurance. Our unemployment insurance system is out of date for the 21st century. We need urgent federal investments to improve these systems for any future economic downturns and ensure that Nevadans can quickly receive the support they need,” said Congressman Steven Horsford. "This bill would speed up claims processing, reduce the time necessary to implement new programs, and improve overall system functionality. By modernizing state unemployment systems, we will build a better experience for job seekers and prevent the identity theft and fraud that has hurt Nevada families and stolen billions in taxpayer dollars nationwide.”

“While enhanced jobless benefits have enabled millions and millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries, many states have been unable to get benefits out the door in a timely manner. I have heard story after story from Oregonians who have spent months trying to get their jobless benefits. That’s completely unacceptable when families are depending on these benefits to keep a roof over their heads,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “Our bill requires a complete overhaul of unemployment insurance technology, and paves the way for one website to apply for jobless benefits, not 53. The bill also requires minimum standards for accessibility and equity. Black and Hispanic workers have been far less likely to access benefits, even though they have been far more likely to lose their jobs during this crisis because they work in the hardest-hit industries. Congress must not allow another recession to come and go without reforming our unemployment insurance system, and that starts with an overhaul of technology.”

“Since the onset of the pandemic, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program has experienced a record number of claims never seen in the program’s 80-year history. Since then, Nevada has been able to adapt to the ongoing monumental demands by monitoring and making improvements to its UI system in order to make sure the system remains operable. Although the UI system has been operational during this unprecedented time, there is no doubt that a new, modernized system is necessary, particularly when claims are anticipated to continue to be above records levels. A modern system would enable the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation to increase functionality, speed up claims processing, reduce the time necessary to implement new programming, and improve overall system efficacy,” said the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR).

The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act would invest in federal technology capabilities that all states could use to administer their own unemployment insurance programs. This approach would provide states with access to state-of-the-art unemployment insurance technologies and would be more cost-effective than building 53 separate state systems. The legislation would also ensure that new systems are better-equipped to prevent identity theft and fraud. Specifically, the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act:

  • Requires the U.S. Department of Labor to work with technology experts to develop, operate, and maintain a modular set of technology capabilities to modernize unemployment compensation technology.
    • States will be able to use all of the capabilities or choose to use only those capabilities that meet their needs.
    • The updated technology will help states ensure timely and accurate delivery of payments and better identify fraudulent claims.
  • Prioritizes user experience, including by requiring consultation and testing with claimants, employers, State workforce agency staff, and other users.
  • Requires a study to evaluate unemployment insurance technology needs, with an emphasis on program accessibility and equity.
  • Establishes a new Department of Labor Digital Services Team to expand the Department’s ability to assist states with technological issues.
  • Ensures the use of best practices in cybersecurity, procurement, and transparency during and after the development of the technology capabilities.
  • Includes accessibility requirements for online claim-filing systems.
  • Ensures that the new technology capabilities do not rely on automated decision systems that may produce biased results without impact assessments and public input.

The full bill text of the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act can be found here. A summary of the legislation can be found here.

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MEDIA CONTACT
Geneva Kropper | geneva.kropper@mail.house.gov | 202-849-0251 

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