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Session Recap: Unemployment Insurance

November 10, 2014 01:00 PM

By Yu-Ling Chang, University of Washington

This panel discussed the Unemployment Insurance (UI) policy, with a specific focus on the state-level UI policy designs, implementation, changes in responses to the Great Recession, and corresponding policy performance.

Wayne Vroman from the Urban Institute presented Big States, Little States and Unemployment Insurance Financing. This paper compared 13 largest states’ UI financing situations to the 38 remaining states’ situations before and after the Great Recession. Using trend analysis supplemented by state-level regression analysis, Vroman found that 13 largest states have responded in different ways from UI programs in other states, including (1) smaller increases in total tax revenue, taxable wage base, and maximum weekly benefit and (2) weak evidence of lower recipiency and replacement rates.

Reforming the Unemployment Insurance Payroll Tax: How Would Major Changes Alter Funding Adequacy and Cross-Subsidies was presented Stephen Woodbury from the Princeton University. This paper addressed the issue on the problem of insolvency of state UI trust funds. Using administrative tax records from Missouri State and a simulation modeling technique, Woodburydiscussed the potential impacts of several changes in the UI payroll tax on tax revenues and the subsidy/tax ratio. His future analysis will include Washington State and offer policy implications for state UI financing.

In Gould-Werth’s presentation My Boss’ Business? The Employer’s Role in Unemployment Benefit Access, she argued that employers act as gatekeepers between government unemployment benefits and their former employees. Findings based on qualitative interviews on employees also revealed that low-SES and female workers were less like to claim UI benefits actively and successfully. This study offered implications for UI policy practice at the frontline.

Karen Needels from Mathematica Policy Research presentedStates’ Decisions to Adopt Unemployment Compensation Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Using a survey on UI administrators in 51 states and publicly available data sources, this research identified factors that affect state policy changes and adoptions. The great variation in policy adoptions and choices across states raised a further discussion on the federal government’s and states’ role in the UI policy in the U.S.


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