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What we're reading

A non-comprehensive list of the articles, reports, and publications that have been useful in developing our understanding of UI systems in the United States. Originally compiled by Alyssa Levitz.

Human impact of unprepared UI systems

Technology in UI

Major reports

  • 2020-10-05 The Century Foundation, National Employment Law Project, and Philadelphia Legal Assistance: Centering Workers: How to Modernize Unemployment Insurance Technology.
    • This report provides an analysis of states' pre-COVID efforts to modernize their UI systems in order to make recommendations on how to continue this effort with more success moving forward.
    • The recommendations they make are even more important to consider as COVID-era volumes underscore the existing limitations of UI systems; the recs are broken down based on stages: Planning, Designing, and Implementing.
    • Within the "The Role of Unemployment Insurance" section, they do the important work of sharing some of the ways in which systemic racism impacts both UI systems and the underlying unemployment that make the systems so critical. This is a fundamental piece of their argument for the inclusion of the affected populations in making major changes to the UI systems.
  • From Disrepair to Transformation: How to Revive UI IT and Infrastructure, Congressional Testimony from Rebecca Nixon, Executive Director, NELP
    • This report contains key lessons learned from the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) enacted in 2009.

Specific technology areas

Governmental reports

  • 2020-11-30 -- Government Accountability Office: GAO-21-191: Covid-19: Urgent Actions Needed to Better Ensure an Effective Federal Response. There were 4 key take-aways for UI in this report:
    • The Federal Department of Labor had been reporting the number of weeks of UI benefits claimed as the number of individuals claiming benefits. Given backlogs and multi-week certification processes, this has the effect of inflating how many people appear to be on unemployment.
    • UI Benefits are funded by taxes levied by states on businesses; these funds are completely used up in many cases. “As of November 9, 2020, 21 states and territories held about $40.2 billion in federal loans to pay UI benefits.” It will take years after this recession to re-establish the funds and pay back these loans.
    • Most states have been paying the minimum allowable benefit for PUA rather than calculating what folks are truly eligible for. The DOL doesn't know how many states are tracking, recalculating, and disbursing these payments, though California appeared to be doing so as of October 30, 2020
    • There are a lot of on-going fraud investigations. 14 investigations by DOL itself, nearly 150 by the US Secret Service, and unknown numbers through money given by the federal DOL to states.
  • 2020-09-16 -- California Employment Development Department Strike Team: Detailed Assessment and Recommendations
    • This 100+ page report with appendices details the innovations and limitations within CA's EDD
    • Its primary recommendations were:
      • Measure and monitor every step of the claims process daily
      • Deploy a NIST IAL2-compliant identity proofing solution within the application process
      • For a period of time, delay new claims filed and redirect highest skilled staff to focus on processing claims
      • Complete deployment of mobile-friendly document upload solution