May 27, 2014
Meet US(T) Mondays- Laurie
Every day is Earth Day for nonprofit members of the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) who are reducing their paper trail. More than 91% of the organizations that participate in the UST program now handle the details and filing of their unemployment claims online. 68% of UST members are participating in the online unemployment claim dashboard that allows them to view claims detail related to their organization and process information requests from the state. And an additional 23% of UST members have elected secure email channels as their method of claims response, further eliminating paper waste and increasing the speed of communication.
Last year the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) identified $3,532,485.26 in unemployment tax savings opportunities for more than 200 nonprofits that requested a Savings Evaluation. Additionally, UST found $1.7 million in state errors that were credited back to current participants in the UST program after state charges were carefully audited by the claims administrator.
The South Central Behavioral Health Network (SCBHN) is made up of 39 mental health and substance abuse programs that are funded by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Focusing on programs that benefit the homeless and addicted populations served by member agencies, SCBHN runs multiple programs that offer addiction counseling and support, job training, and grants for consumer-run projects.
It also operates a very successful program which allows homeless people to move into sober living houses and provides them with case managers.
Each year, the SCBHN houses more than 130 people, and their programs focus on helping people successfully stand on their own two feet. Believing that those who have already experienced the success of conquering addiction and homelessness provide the best examples to those still struggling, SCBHN provides those connections and helps make sure that peer counselors are always available.
A very unique program, SCBHN began as a membership organization for the substance abuse and mental health organizations in the area surrounding New Haven, CT. Now providing direct services to clients of their membership agencies, SCBHN faces a challenge because they have committed themselves to hiring peers to help those they serve. For them, this means that they have committed to hiring two part-time peers for each position, instead of one full-time entry level employee who had never experienced the hardships of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health concerns. In the last few years, SCBHN has been “hurt around the edges” as donors for their homeless programs dropped out, which forced them to cut back on the number of people they can serve, even as the population grew.
Needing to save money and feeling that self-insuring is far too risky for the majority of nonprofits, SCBHN joined UST and was able to see an immediate decrease in their annual rates.
“What’s the downside of joining UST?” asked Executive Director Edward Mattison. “I certainly confess that I didn’t pay any attention to unemployment before it became important, but the Trust is less expensive than staying with the state and it’s far less risky than trying to self- insure.”
Mattison’s sentiment proved to be extremely true when SCBHN was forced to dismiss an employee who clients alleged was stealing money from them. After dismissal, the employee filed for unemployment benefits claiming she deserved them for her work at the agency, but SCBHN felt that she had harmed clients and should not receive benefits. “The claims staff has [always] been very helpful for us in prepping us for claims interviews and hearings,” said Mattison.
Working with their claim monitor and hearing representative to figure out how to best approach the situation, what documentation to provide for the hearing, and who should be interviewed, SCBHN was able to win the claim early on.
“I’m not a person who wants to deny people their rights, but the idea that someone who was allegedly stealing from clients should receive benefits made me very angry,” said Mattison.
Looking to save on operational expenses, SCBHN learned about UST and the benefits of joining a Trust. Being offered substantial savings which allowed them to put more money back into their homeless programs, SCBHN finds UST to be important to their mission because, in part, they are protected from high state rates and can get help in defending themselves against fraudulent or inappropriate unemployment claims.
In the case of the fraudulent claim, claims representatives were able to help SCBHN collect all the necessary information for the unemployment hearing they had requested. Organizing statements, testimony, and the evidence, their representative was able to help SCBHN successfully defend themselves against the claim and save their homeless clients from being offered fewer services. UST's claims administrator then went on to help SCBHN set up stronger documentation systems to prevent any future issues with employees who harm clients.