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Our Vice President of UI Tax Services, Wayne Rottger, recently attended the State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) Conference in St. Louis, MO. The conference was organized for state workforce members, employers, and third-party administrators (TPAs) to discuss current and developing trends in the unemployment program and how SIDES can be used to enhance integrity measures, streamline claims processing, and reduce agency costs.

Here are his main takeaways from the conference:

I recently had the pleasure of attending a conference in the St. Louis area. The National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) hosted a SIDES conference for state unemployment agencies, employers and Third-Party Administrators (TPAs).

SIDES, or State Information Data Exchange System, was designed to make the communications process easier between state unemployment agencies and employers or Third-Party Administrators. When individuals file unemployment claims, certain data points are necessary from the claimant as well as from the employer in order to make a timely and accurate determination of benefits. SIDES was developed to make this process more efficient, timely and secure for all involved.

SIDES has been in existence for 11 years and recently was enhanced to improve efficiencies even more. When going to conferences, one always hopes to walk away with some tidbit of information they previously did not have. For this conference, I can honestly say there were multiple helpful and encouraging items with which I walked away.

Change is a Necessary Thing

In order to continuously improve, enhancements must be made to the process. The gathering of additional data elements assists with this and there are plans to make modifications in 2022 and 2023.

Fraud is Alive and Well

This is probably not what most of us want to hear but unfortunately, fraud was and continues to be rampant in the UI system. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, 0.00019% of all contacts to the UI Integrity Center were fraud related. Fast forward to post-pandemic, the number is now 24%.  While it is obvious the pandemic only exacerbated this problem, this also raised awareness which caused state unemployment agencies to develop new and creative ways to identify and eliminate fraud.

State UI Agencies Are Modernizing Their Databases

The pandemic also helped bring this issue into the national spotlight. During the height of the pandemic, some states’ systems crashed because they could not handle the traffic. To address this, some states created a consortium that included representatives from various states. The members brought their experiences and their state’s issues to the table for discussion and problem solving. This enabled multiple state agencies to develop systems and processes that could positively impact them.

The Federal Government Is Ready to Assist

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) contributed some $2 billion to assist with preventing fraud, promoting equity in the UI programs and ensuring timely benefit payment. Since many state agencies are strapped for cash, this was welcome ingestion of money. It really helped set the stage for development mentioned earlier in this blog.

Positive Impacts of SIDES

SIDES offers employers and third-party administrators a secure, free of charge, electronic and nationally-standardized format in which they can easily respond to UI information requests, attach documentation when needed and receive a date-stamped confirmation of receipt.

As a third-party administrator, electronic communications with state unemployment agencies enable us to react nimbly to requests for information which in turn enables us to make certain our clients’ rates are not impacted negatively. We were excited when SIDES came into being and continue to be encouraged by additional development on the horizon.


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