New rules for Hoosiers collecting unemployment

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There are 40,000 jobless Hoosiers collecting unemployment benefits, paid for by taxpayers. Now a new law requires they appear in person after four weeks to prove they need it and are looking for work.

Michael Blake lives on the Southside and was let go from his job in May.

“My last job I was in for six years before they let me go,” said Blake. “We had quite a bit of money built up.”

But as we all know, it goes fast, and Blake isn’t ashamed to admit he needs help. So he went to his nearby Work One Center Tuesday for an appointment.

“They’ve got some guys that help you with the computer if you’re not computer savvy and they’re all very friendly and very easy to work with.”

That’s music to Joe Frank’s ears. He’s with the Department of Workforce Development and said Blake is the ideal candidate for unemployment benefits and job search help.

“We can orient them to our Work One services and free training and education programs that we offer so we can actually get them paired up with a job as quickly as possible,” said Frank. “And that’s what it’s all about is getting folks back into a job and employed as quickly as we can.”

Secondarily, Frank says, it will cut down on fraud and overpayment. The state overpaid $34 million last fiscal year. That’s about 4 percent of all payments.

“It sounds like a lot of money and it is taxpayer money so it’s important, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re doing a lot better than other states,” said Frank.

Also good news, said Frank, is that the state has stopped borrowing money to repay unemployment debt to the federal government. The $1.3 billion debt should be paid off in 2017 now, versus 2020 as first thought.

“Earlier this year we stopped actually paying more in benefits than we took in for premiums so that’s a big improvement in the situation we’ve had over the past couple years,” said Frank.

As for the unemployment rate in Indiana, Frank says it’s around 8 percent, but he’s not getting any numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the government shutdown.

Michael Blake hopes he’s not part of that statistic very soon.

“I’m trying to find a job as we’re talking,” said Blake. “And when I leave here I’m going to see about some more jobs and see what happens.”

Frank suggests jobless Hoosiers check out Indiana Career Connect. There are currently 92,000 job openings on the site.

Nearly 600 Hoosiers on unemployment have appointments this week. People required to go in will get a letter in the mail. According to the Fiscal Impact Statement on the new law, “This provision is not expected to increase the administrative burden for the Department of Workforce Development.”