Thirty Democratic senators and House members are asking newly confirmed Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in a March 23 letter for the agency to focus its efforts to help states improve their unemployment insurance (UI) systems along the lines of legislation introduced in both houses of Congress earlier this year.

The letter follows the American Rescue Plan Act’s appropriation $2 billion for the Labor Department to help states with their UI systems in the areas of “fraud prevention, equitable access, and timely payment.”

The legislators cite the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., as a potential guide for Labor’s modernization efforts.

“The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act calls for the Department to work with technology experts to develop, operate, and maintain a modular set of technology capabilities to modernize unemployment compensation technology,” the letter states. “This type of system would allow the Federal government to take on a role in ensuring smooth administration of unemployment programs while still allowing states to adapt the technology to meet their unique programmatic needs.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by 47 members of the Senate and House of Representatives, would require Labor to establish a Digital Services Team to help states implement and support Federal technology needs.

“The updated system would help states ensure timely and accurate delivery of payments, make the program more accessible, and better identify fraudulent claims,” the letter states.

Additionally, the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act would prioritize user experience by “requiring consultation and testing with claimants, employers, state workforce agency staff, and other users.” It would also require the use of best practices in cybersecurity to ensure there are no impediments to accessing benefits.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.