Reps. Titus and Lee Urge Department of Labor to Assist State Workforce Agencies

Jul 14, 2020
Press Release

July 14, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Dina Titus (NV-1), Susie Lee (NV-3), Nydia Velazquez (NY-7), and Jahana Hayes (CT-5) are urging the U.S. Department of Labor to better assist state workforce agencies in processing unemployment claims. In a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, the Members of Congress share their concerns about the Department of Labor’s guidance to state workforce agencies. 

“As members of Congress from states experiencing record levels of unemployment, we write to express concern with the Department of Labor’s role in making it more difficult for state workforce agencies to quickly provide unemployment insurance to those who qualify for it in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Reps. Titus, Lee, Velazquez, and Hayes. 

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Scalia, 

As members of Congress from states experiencing record levels of unemployment, we write to express concern with the Department of Labor’s role in making it more difficult for state workforce agencies to quickly provide unemployment insurance to those who qualify for it in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

We have heard disturbing reports that state workforce agencies may face punitive measures as a result of their best efforts to implement new CARES Act programming, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, as quickly and efficiently as they can in the absence of clear guidance from the Department of Labor. State workforce agencies should not be penalized for the slow and often conflicting way in which the Department of Labor has issued guidance. 

Originally, the Department of Labor told states that self-attestation would be sufficient to begin immediately paying out benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Then, after states started implementing PUA with that understanding, DOL issued new guidance outlining specific scenarios that should be treated in a separate manner. Unfortunately, workforce agencies have had to notify claimants they are no longer eligible once they received updated guidance. This has caused confusion and apprehension among state workforce agencies that are concerned that they may be punished for paying out benefits as originally directed by the Department of Labor. Penalizing workforce agencies for these actions would only make it more difficult for individuals who are struggling to get the unemployment insurance that they are owed. 

Additionally, we are concerned that DOL is communicating to state workforce agencies that it does not intend to comply with Congressionally-mandated CARES Act directives that instruct the Department of Labor to pay for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new Unemployment Insurance programs. According to the CARES Act, each state that participates in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is entitled to 100 percent of “the total amount of assistance provided by the State pursuant to such agreement” and “any additional administrative expenses incurred by the State by reason of such agreement (as determined by the Secretary).” These terms also apply to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Furthermore, the CARES Act clearly states that DOL shall pay “100 percent of the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation paid to individuals by the State pursuant to such agreements.” This language is not ambiguous. We ask that you quickly make clear to states that they can count on a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement of costs associated with CARES Act programs, as proscribed in the law. 

We share our states’ commitment to the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance program and combating waste, fraud, and abuse. We also understand that there are concerns about the number of fraudulently filed claims and the need for enforcement safeguards to prevent the payout of these claims. At the same time, we must work together to avoid any actions that would further stifle economic recovery in our states. We ask that you prioritize assisting states in their ability to adjudicate claims quickly to help our constituents make ends meet. 

Thank you for your attention to these requests. 

 

Sincerely, 

Dina Titus, Susie Lee, Nydia Velazquez, and Jahana Hayes

Member of Congress