State toughens unemployment benefit standards

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Beginning in mid-October, recently unemployed Hoosiers will have to visit a WorkOne Center four weeks after receiving benefits in order to continue receiving assistance. If they don’t, the benefits will stop.

State officials claim they’re trying to help more people get on the right track with the new law and protect the state from scam artists.

The in-person visits will take the place of online filings. Unemployed workers will get an overview of the free resources available the Work One centers, and they will also have to show their attempts at getting a job over recent weeks that will need to verified.

“Computer workshops, resume help and interview assistance,” said Joe Frank, a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development about the job search tools at the WorkOne centers. “We just really want to get folks in as soon as possible to let them see what’s available at no cost to help them get employed or get them on an educational career pathway as soon as possible.”

A federal law that went into effect last year required a one-on-one visit after 26 weeks of receiving benefits. It ignited interest in the tougher change in Indiana law that has been applauded by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and several business groups.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce emailed this statement:

“The Indiana Chamber of Commerce continues to support improvements to the state’s unemployment insurance system regarding eligibility and fraud. Benefits should not be so high as to provide a disincentive to actively seek employment. Eligibility requirements should be strengthened to provide benefits only to those who have been unemployed through no fault of their own and have a demonstrated work history. Requiring recipients to now appear in person at WorkOne centers to verify their claims is one such step. We will continue to support these efforts to decrease the amount of fraud in the system and make better use of limited unemployment insurance tax revenue.”

The state overpaid recipients $34 million in the last year, and an estimated $7.7 million of that was the result of Hoosiers illegally taking advantage of the system.  The state paid $1 billion in benefits last year.

“Instead of attesting online that they’re who they say they are, and are really eligible, we’ll be able to look them in the face and see their picture ID,” said Frank.

The Department of Workforce Development has also partnered with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. A $1.5 million federal grant is paying for a program that is seeking out scam artists in Marion County. Surrounding counties with limited resources may also have access to the help, according to Frank.

If an unemployed person does not show up for the in-person meeting, they benefits will stop unless they have rescheduled.

More information is available at the Department of Workforce Development website.

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