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Beck raises concerns about state unemployment system; offer to help rejected

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INDIANAPOLIS – Legislation that would offer improvements to Indiana’s unemployment insurance system will instead make it more difficult for Hoosier workers to get the benefits they deserve, according to State Rep. Lisa Beck (D-Lakes of the Four Seasons).

Beck pointed out several inequities in House Bill 1062 today by offering amendments that would have improved the methods of notifying claimants about their eligibility to receive benefits, but those proposals were rejected by House Republicans.

The DWD is sending unemployment claim notices to claimants through e-mail alone, and not providing notice through the U.S. mail, but employers receive notice through both methods. One of her amendments that was rejected would have made sure that workers receive notice through both electronic and U.S. mail.

“Obviously, the DWD recognizes the benefit of using both electronic correspondence and U.S. mail, because they provide notices through both means to employers,” Beck said. “However, the same methods of notice are not being provided to claimants. Electronic correspondence by itself is not enough for everyone. People who have lost their jobs are often without reliable internet access. As a result, they are missing notices through e-mail and losing their ability to find out if they are eligible for benefits, if they can have a hearing on their case, or even if they have a right to appeal a decision denying them benefits. Claimants are finding it too difficult to file for benefits.”

A second amendment that failed would have ensured that seasonal employees would have the right to be represented by their collective bargaining unit when they file an appeal in the event benefits are declined. Presently, the employer has the only right to appeal a benefits decision.

Finally, Beck unsuccessfully attempted to remove a proposed change in the statute of limitations that would give the DWD an additional 10 years from the date of discovery to pursue a civil action against anyone who has been overpaid unemployment benefits.

“These are concerns that have come to our attention since the DWD began implementing a new system of handling their primary responsibility: helping Hoosiers who have lost their jobs transition into the next phase of their lives,” Beck said.

“This new system seems to be more weighted toward helping the employers, rather than making sure that all sides are handled equitably,” she noted. “I think we need to do more to make sure there is a level playing field here.”

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