I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2018 conference hosted by the National Association of Workforce Agencies (NASWA) in Birmingham, Alabama. NASWA is a national organization representing all 50 state workforce agencies, D.C. and U.S. territories. According to its website, NASWA provides policy expertise, shares promising state practices and promotes state innovation and leadership in workforce development. This conference is hosted annually by NASWA, bringing the Directors from the various state workforce agencies around the country to establish connections and present topics that are relevant to the unemployment compensation programs nationwide. This year’s theme for the conference was “Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today”. That was quite apparent based on the variety of unique presenters and breakout sessions available.

Representatives from the Department of Labor provided insight on the overall state of the unemployment insurance program. While many states presently have sufficient trust fund balances, a recession is projected to occur in the near future so there is concern some agencies will not have the necessary trust fund balances to offset the spike in unemployment claims that may be on the horizon. Therefore, we may see a return to state agencies requesting loans from the federal government to pay the claims.

It was refreshing to hear from multiple state agency directors about how they are modernizing their systems to better serve the employer as well as claimants who may file. Many of them will improve their ability to identify fraudulent claim activity which is on the increase. There are currently procedural steps in place to communicate between the agencies when suspected fraud is detected, thereby circumventing wide-scale fraudulent activity. UI Integrity continues to be a topic that is front and center with all unemployment agencies.

In the breakout sessions, we heard from directors from various states about how they are improving their programs so that best practices could be shared and implemented throughout the country. One topic of discussion had to do with sharing unemployment records between agencies within a state. For example, certain data obtained by the unemployment agency may benefit another agency within the state. Due to privacy laws around personally identifiable information or PII, each agency must be very cautious in determining whether or not to share information with another agency to make certain no statutory regulations are violated. Three states presented how they have overcome this obstacle which has benefited them as a state.

Overall, the conference was extremely engaging and informative. The directors from around the country were eager to share their success stories and learn from each other for continued growth and improvement. I am encouraged by this display of collaborative work and look forward to next year’s conference in Boston, Massachusetts.


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