Bill Text: CA AB360 | 2021-2022 | Regular Session | Amended


Bill Title: Employment Development Department: Unemployment Insurance Reform Project.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 17-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-03-08 - Re-referred to Com. on INS. [AB360 Detail]

Download: California-2021-AB360-Amended.html

Amended  IN  Assembly  March 04, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 360


Introduced by Assembly Member Patterson
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Bigelow, Chen, Choi, Flora, Fong, Kiley, Lackey, Mathis, Nguyen, Seyarto, Smith, Valladares, Voepel, and Waldron)
(Coauthors: Senators Grove and Melendez)

February 01, 2021


An act to amend Section 601 of add Section 320.1 to the Unemployment Insurance Code, relating to unemployment insurance. insurance, making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 360, as amended, Patterson. Unemployment compensation: covered employment. Employment Development Department: Unemployment Insurance Reform Project.
Existing law establishes the Employment Development Department within the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and sets forth its powers and duties, including administration of the unemployment and disability insurance programs for California. Existing law requires the department to pay unemployment compensation benefits to unemployed individuals meeting specified requirements, to periodically review policies and practices used to determine eligibility for and the amount of benefits in the unemployment insurance program, and to report to the Legislature, as specified. Under existing law, unemployment compensation benefits are paid from the Unemployment Fund, and the expenses for administering these provisions are paid from the Unemployment Administration Fund, which is continuously appropriated for these purposes.
This bill would establish the Unemployment Insurance Reform Project to be administered by the Director of Employment Development. Under the bill, the Employment Development Department would be required to comply with various reporting and review processes. In this regard, the bill would require the department to report specified information regarding overpayments at least once every 6 months on its internet website, to immediately perform a risk assessment of its deferred workloads, and to develop a workload plan that prioritizes its deferred workloads based on that risk assessment. The bill would require the department to develop a recession plan so that it is well prepared to provide services during future economic downturns, as specified. The bill would require the department to, by March 1, 2021, revise its public dashboards with regard to the number of backlogged claims, as specified.
This bill would require the department to convene a working group to assess the lessons learned from claim surges and identify the processes that the department can still improve and issue a report by January 1, 2022, as specified. The bill would require the department, by June 1, 2021, to determine the reasons that claimants cannot successfully complete their identity verification, as specified, and to identify the elements of the Benefit System Modernization that can assist the department in making timely payments.
This bill would require the department to, by May 1, 2021, implement a formal policy that establishes a process for tracking and periodically analyzing the reasons why unemployment insurance claimants call for assistance and, by October 1, 2021, and every 6 months thereafter, to analyze this data to improve its call center.
Because this bill would authorize the expenditure of funds from the Unemployment Administration Fund for new purposes, the bill would make an appropriation.

Existing law provides for the payment of unemployment compensation benefits to eligible persons who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Existing law defines “employment,” for purposes of determining eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits, to mean service, including service in interstate commerce, performed by an employee for wages under any contract of hire, written or oral, express or implied.

This bill would make a nonsubstantive change in that provision defining “employment” for purposes of those laws providing for the payment of unemployment compensation benefits.

Vote: MAJORITY2/3   Appropriation: NOYES   Fiscal Committee: NOYES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 320.1 is added to the Unemployment Insurance Code, to read:

320.1.
 (a) The Unemployment Insurance Reform Project is hereby created within the department to be administered by the director.
(b) The department shall do all of the following under the project:
(1) (A) Report at least once every six months on its internet website all of the following information:
(i) The amount of benefit payments for which it must assess potential overpayments.
(ii) The amount for which it has issued overpayment notices.
(iii) The amount of overpayments waived.
(iv) The amount repaid related to those overpayment notices.
(B) The reports shall encompass benefit payments made by the department from March 1, 2020, until the time when it resumes all eligibility determinations.
(C) The department shall publish the information required under this paragraph until the repayment period for all the notices has elapsed.
(2) (A) Immediately perform a risk assessment of its deferred workloads, including deferred eligibility determinations and retroactive certifications.
(B) The department’s risk assessment performed under subparagraph (A) shall take into account the relative likelihood that it issued payments to ineligible claimants by considering historic overpayment trends, as well as the new or altered eligibility requirements the federal government adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If necessary, the department shall either partner with another state agency or contract for assistance in performing the analysis in support of this assessment.
(3) (A) Develop a workload plan that prioritizes its deferred workloads based on the risk assessment performed pursuant to paragraph (2) and determine the staffing and information technology resources needed to accomplish the work within expected time frames.
(B) Hire and train staff as necessary in order to carry out the workload plan. Using the workload plan, the department shall process the deferred work in alignment with all of the following:
(i) The need to pay timely benefits to new or continued claimants.
(ii) Federal expectations about the urgency of the deferred work.
(iii) Any deadlines by which the department may no longer be allowed to recoup inappropriately paid benefits.
(4) (A) Develop a recession plan so that it is well prepared to provide services during future economic downturns. The planning process shall consider lessons learned from previous economic downturns, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic-related claim surge. At a minimum, the plan shall include all of the following:
(i) The indicators that the department will monitor and use to project the likely upcoming workload that it will face.
(ii) The steps the department will take to address increases in its workload, such as cross-training nonunemployment insurance staff, changing its staffing levels, prioritizing specific tasks, and adjusting the ways in which it performs certain work.
(iii) The altered policies or procedures that the department will activate if a rise in unemployment insurance claims becomes significant enough to warrant altered policies or procedures.
(B) The plan developed under this paragraph shall be completed no later than June 1, 2022, and the plan shall be updated at least once every three years thereafter.
(5) Immediately begin modeling workload projections that account for possible scenarios that would cause a spike in unemployment insurance claims. The department shall plan its staffing around the likelihood of those scenarios, including having a contingency plan for less likely scenarios that would have a significant impact on its workload.
(6) By March 1, 2021, revise its public dashboards with regard to the number of backlogged claims in order to clearly describe the difference between those waiting for payment and those that are not, and to clearly indicate the number of claims that have waited longer than 21 days for payment because the department has not yet resolved pending work on the claim.
(7) By June 1, 2021, determine how many of its temporary automation measures for claims processing it can retain and by September 1, 2021, make those a permanent feature of its claims processing.
(8) (A) Convene a working group to assess the lessons learned from claim surges and identify the processes that the department can still improve. The working group shall do both of the following:
(i) Include representatives from the department’s unemployment insurance branch, information technology branch, and executive management, as well as representatives from the 2020 Employment Development Department strike team.
(ii) Issue a report on the lessons learned from the claim surge by January 1, 2022.
(B) The report shall identify any recommended improvements for the department and include a review of the department’s implementation of the 2020 Employment Development Department strike team recommendations.
(9) By June 1, 2021, determine the reasons that claimants cannot successfully complete their identity verification through secure identity verification networked, including ID.me, and work with department vendors to resolve identified problems. The department shall thereafter regularly monitor the rate of successful identity verifications to ensure that it consistently minimizes unnecessary staff intervention.
(10) By June 1, 2021, identify the elements of the department’s Benefit Systems Modernization process that can assist the department in making timely payments and that it can implement incrementally. The department shall then prioritize implementing the elements most likely to benefit Californians.
(11) By May 1, 2021, begin tracking the reasons that individuals calling the department need assistance and whether the department successfully resolves each caller’s issues.
(12) Implement a formal policy by May 1, 2021, that establishes a process for tracking and periodically analyzing the reasons why unemployment insurance claimants call for assistance. By October 1, 2021, and every six months thereafter, the department shall analyze this data to improve its call center by doing the following:
(A) Identifying and resolving weaknesses or problems with the ways in which it provides assistance to unemployment insurance claimants through self-service and noncall center options.
(B) Developing specialized training modules to quickly train its call center staff on the most commonly requested items on which callers want assistance.
(13) (A) By May 1, 2021, implement a policy for tracking and monitoring its rate of first-call resolution. The department shall review first-call resolution data at least monthly to evaluate whether it is providing effective assistance to callers.
(B) To maximize the number of calls that department staff are able to answer, as soon as possible, the department shall add prerecorded message functionality to its phone system to advise claimants of their rights and responsibilities after they file their claim with an agent.
(C) To provide a more convenient customer service experience, as soon as possible, the department shall implement features of its phone system that allow callers to request a callback from an agent instead of waiting on hold for assistance.

SECTION 1.Section 601 of the Unemployment Insurance Code is amended to read:
601.

“Employment” means service, including service in interstate commerce, that is performed by an employee for wages or under any contract of hire, written or oral, express or implied.

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