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Florida Unemployment Compensation reform

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Florida Unemployment Compensation reform

Post  GonzoFL on Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:59 am

Although this legislation doesn't appear to have much traction right now,it is something to keep an eye on and a ear open to.


http://www.flanews.com/?p=11491
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AP source: Obama wants to delay state jobless insurance debt, increase taxable levels in 2014

Post  sc4ram on Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:56 am

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Scott nixes Obama plan on unemployment taxes

Post  sc4ram on Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:24 am

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Fl overpaid jobless benefits by nearly $500M

Post  sc4ram on Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:29 am

Report: Florida overpaid jobless benefits by nearly $500M




By Jim Stratton, Orlando Sentinel

4:56 p.m. EST, July 24, 2012




From 2008 to 2011, as officials struggled to handle Florida's ballooning jobless rate, the state overpaid unemployment recipients by $486 million, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Labor.

During the same time, the state's error rate — which includes underpayments and overpayments — climbed from 4.5 percent to 8.4 percent.


The rising error rate was not driven by people scamming the system, experts say, but by the crush of new claims that accompanied a deteriorating job market. Like other states, Florida took workers responsible for verifying the accuracy of unemployment payments and moved them into claims processing.

"Agencies didn't have the staff they needed, and they were under great stress to make payments," said Wayne Vroman, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute. "And one of the ways that manifested itself was in payment errors."

That happened all over the country.

New Jersey's improper-payment rate reached almost 13 percent, or more than $1 billion, says DOL. California incorrectly distributed — or withheld — almost $1.8 billion, and Indiana's improper-payment rate exceeded 40 percent, or $1.7 billion.

Altogether, states overpaid by more than $14 billion in 2011, the Labor Department says. That's about 11 percent of all payments, but it only tells part of the story, said University of Georgia professor Jeffrey Wenger.

Wenger said underpayments do not account for people who receive no money because they were wrongfully denied benefits. His research has found that the number of people incorrectly denied and those underpaid closely tracks the number of claimants who receive overpayments.

"Fourteen billion in overpayments sounds like a ton of money, and it is," he said. "But the other half of the equation is all those people who were wrongly denied, and the [government] money that wasn't spent."

Most overpayments — about 55 percent, state officials said — are caused by mistakes made by the recipient. Employers and state workers account for a smaller share.

In Florida, technology has historically shared some of the blame, too. The state's processing system works off a 40-year-old computer with a history of sketchy performance. It is scheduled to be replaced in late 2013.

A spokesman with the Department of Economic Opportunity said the new system should help reduce improper payments because it will offer features "not available with the current mainframe." But James Miller stopped short of blaming incorrect payments on the existing, Nixon-era hardware.

"Improper payments happen due to different factors," he wrote in an email, "but none are related to technological issues."

Many overpayments didn't start out as incorrect.

For example, once a worker is declared eligible for unemployment, he or she can begin receiving checks. Payments continue even when an employer challenges eligibility, and end only if the state reverses the initial decision.






If that happens, claimants are supposed to repay the state, but recovering overpayments is not easy.

Florida has recovered about 28 percent of overpayments in the past three years, according to data from the Department of Economic Opportunity. That's on par with the national rate.

Miller said the state sometimes garnishes wages or turns debts over to collection agencies. In the past, the state has had up to three years to recover overpayments and up to five years in fraud cases. But a new state law removes those time limits.

"So collection," Miller said, "is an ongoing, continuous process."

The Labor Department launched a push last year to reduce improper payments and recover more money. It awarded more than $191 million to states that established or were setting up a series of recommendations designed to improve accuracy. Florida's share was $2.3 million.

jstratton@tribune.com or 407-420-5379
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