Unemployment Insurance:

Better Data Needed to Assess Reemployment Services to Claimants

GAO-05-413: Published: Jun 24, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2005.

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With unemployed workers at a greater risk of long-term unemployment than in the past, it is increasingly important to quickly connect Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants with reemployment activities. However, the shift to remote claims filing in many states has raised concerns about maintaining a connection between the UI program and reemployment services. This report examines (1) the extent to which states have shifted to remote claims filing and how they are making claimants aware of program requirements and services, (2) what states are doing to facilitate reemployment of UI claimants, and (3) what is known about the extent to which UI claimants receive reemployment services and about their outcomes.

Nearly all states accept most initial UI claims remotely by telephone, the Internet, or both. Even though claimants filing remotely no longer have face-to-face contact with UI staff at the time the claim is filed, all states told us they have found ways to provide information on eligibility requirements and reemployment services to individuals filing claims, such as by including this information in the scripts used by claims takers at UI call centers or as documents on Web pages. Officials from most states told us the shift to remote claims has not diminished their ability to provide information or deliver services to claimants. In fact, some report that this shift may have improved their ability to serve their customers. cross states, claimants have access to a variety of reemployment services, and states make use of UI program requirements to connect claimants with available services at various points in their claim. All federally approved state UI programs require that claimants be able and available to work, and in many states these requirements also serve to link claimants to reemployment services. States also engage some claimants in reemployment services through programs that identify certain groups for more targeted assistance. States primarily target reemployment services to claimants identified as most likely to exhaust their UI benefits before finding work, through federally required claimant profiling programs. Little is known about the extent to which claimants receive services from the broad array of programs designed to assist them or about the outcomes they achieve. States must meet a number of federal reporting requirements for their UI and employment and training programs, but none of these reports provides a complete picture of the services received or the outcomes obtained by UI claimants. GAO also found that few states monitor the extent to which claimants are receiving these services, and even fewer monitor outcomes for these claimants, largely due to limited information systems capabilities. Labor has some initiatives that may begin to shed light on claimant services and outcomes, but none will provide a complete picture.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor took some steps to supplement the data currently collected on Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants' use of reemployment services and the outcomes achieved by claimants. Since GAO's report was issued, the UI program implemented a performance measure to track the rate at which UI beneficiaries become reemployed. Another data collection effort that Labor implemented is the Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) Initiative. Under REA, Labor provided funding to 21 states in FY05 and 20 states in FY06 to conduct in-person interviews with UI claimants to assure that they meet continuing eligibility requirements--including their responsibilities to find reemployment--and to assess their needs for reemployment services. Some information from FY05 assessments was collected from 9 states and all 20 states participating in FY06. In FY 2008, the Department provided about $15.8 million to 19 states to conduct the REA Initiative. The final REA study was published in March 2008 and posted on ETA's web site. The data includes the length of time claimants receive UI benefits before they are reemployed. States are expected to use the National Directory of New Hires cross-match data to obtain this information. In addition, in FY 2009, an additional $40 million was appropriated to expand REA to additional states and to additional locations within currently participating states. Proposals have been received from states that wish to implement REAs and from currently participating states that wish to expand their initiatives. These proposals are currently under review. Finally, ETA began another effort recently in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided targeted funding to support Reemployment Services to UI claimants. To obtain more information about the reemployment services accessed by UI claimants, states submit a monthly report to Labor about services that UI claimants receive through the Reemployment Services Grants-funded staff assisted services. States will report on the same data elements that are collected for the Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Service report, with one additional data element: referral to training, including WIA-funded training. Two key factors that led to this new Reemployment Services report are that ARRA clearly distinguishes between general Wagner-Peyser Act funds and Reemployment Services funds to support targeted services to UI claimants and oversight bodies, including Congress, need to understand the impact of the $250 million dedicated to UI claimants; and that the Employment Service serves over 16 million individuals each year. While these efforts help address the recommendation, however, extending this effort to all claimants would fully address our concerns, as we recommended.

    Recommendation: As Labor develops the Employment and Training Administration Management Information and Longitudinal Evaluation, the Secretary of Labor should work with states to develop a plan for considering the feasibility of requiring states to collect more comprehensive information on UI claimants' use of reemployment services and the outcomes achieved by claimants, including the length of time claimants receive UI before they are reemployed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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