State UI Overpayments Are Marched into the Spotlight

At the end of July the National Unemployment Law Project released a blistering analysis which found that much of the financial burden facing 30 states which will have to pay back nearly $1 billion by the end of September could have been avoided with better planning.

According to the analysis, had each of the states forced to borrow from federal funds enacted more responsible financing of their funds leading up to the Great Recession, fewer states would have had to slash the safety net created for jobless workers through unemployment insurance benefits. The report further details how excessive tax giveaways and breaks for many employers left many states with depleted unemployment trust funds that were unprepared for even a modest downturn.

Citing evidence from 1995 to 2005 in which 31 states reduced employer contribution rates by at least 1/5, the report reveals that while employer tax rates fell to a historic low in the decade leading up to the recession, the combined balance in all state trust funds was half the amount experts recommend.

Funds were so abominably low, Michigan and New York even had to begin borrowing from federal funds before the recession had even officially begun.

The trend continues today. As of yet, few states have made significant changes to the structure of their unemployment insurance funds which would prevent another mass borrowing or would allow them to reinstate a fully funded unemployment trust fund in the next few years. Only Alabama has done enough to predictively repay the federal loan within the next few years.

For employers that have paid increasingly high unemployment taxes the news can come as a shock.

Although tax rates for employers within the state unemployment insurance system have increased substantially since 2009, the higher payments have done little to cover the increased benefits payments and the high level of interest being charged on federal loans, much less build up the level of reserves available.

To combat the continued depletion of funds, many states have even shifted the blame onto those found jobless by reducing benefits and eligibility across the board. Not surprisingly, each cut has severely jeopardized the capacity of unemployment funds to insure families and stabilize the economy during swift downturns, which has led to further increases in tax payments made by employers in the state system.

Thankfully, nonprofits with 10 or more employees have the exclusive ability to opt out of the state UI tax system and reimburse the state only for the benefits paid out to their former employees. This protects the benefits paid out to nonprofit employees, while simultaneously reducing the operational costs of unemployment, which allows nonprofits to do more for their mission.

For a complimentary overview of how UST could help your nonprofit reduce unemployment expenses and lower improper payment rates, please sign up for an upcoming webinar, or fill out a Savings Evaluation today.

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07/11/12 7:25 PM

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