Last week, the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation held its annual UI Issues Conference. The event was titled “Sunny Days Ahead: Improving the UI System Through Collaboration” and was the first time WR was able to participate since 2019 due to the pandemic.
Our uniquely rare UI system was created in 1935 as a federal/state partnership under the Social Security Act. This well-attended meeting included representatives from federal and state governments, employers, employees, and third-party companies. No other national conference pulls together all stakeholders to work on solutions to protect and improve our UI system.
Among the top-notch presenters was Jim Garner, Administrator of the Office of Unemployment Insurance, Employment and Training, United States Department of Labor (USDOL.) He spoke about the impacts of the pandemic on program performance and how systems were recovering. Over 53 million unemployed workers were paid an astonishing $870 billion over two years.
We also heard from Senior Policy Adviser and Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, John Robertson, who offered his predictions for the coming year with particular emphasis on the impact on employment and unemployment.
Several breakout sessions devoted time to addressing fraud over the two years, which totaled more than $650 million nationwide. Top fraud investigator Christopher Silvern, Senior Special Agent and National UI Fraud Coordinator at the USDOL Office of the Inspector General, led the discussion. Approximately $333 million has been recovered to date.
WR has been a long-time member of the Unemployment & Worker’s Compensation (UWC) and values the national and state-by-state expertise provided by their staff, and UWC President Doug Holmes in particular.
Fortunately, Washington State has one of the healthiest UI Trust Funds in the nation and avoided borrowing federal monies during the pandemic to make UI payments to unemployed workers. Additionally, the legislature helped back-fill the program to prevent the most severely impacted industries from suffering significant tax increases. WR works closely with our Employment Security Department on behalf of our members and their employees.