Everyone seems to be striving for efficiency and electronic communications these days rather than working with hard copy documents. The unemployment insurance industry is no exception. If you have any experience in this area, you know that most states have some type of online portal to allow separated employees to file a claim and employers to respond in kind. This technology is becoming more and more prevalent and sophisticated and can provide good and not so good options for employers who use these portals.
Experian Employer Services works extensively with states and has seen how technology has changed and improved this industry. Sometimes that is a positive change such as the State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES). Through SIDES, employers and their agents can connect and receive and respond to many claim documents. For employers who don’t have the time or resources to connect through SIDES, state workforce agencies have been developing employer portals that can help fill the gap.
Within these portals, employers can respond to claims, appeal unfavorable determinations, obtain a copy of their annual unemployment tax rate and the list goes on. This option seems ideal but if an employer uses a third-party agent (TPA), it can create problems. The portals may enable employer users to make changes to their account that stop documents from flowing to a TPA via SIDES or even through the U.S. Postal Service.
There may be language such as “eSides” that state workforce agencies use to communicate with employers. Since eSides and SIDES sound very similar, it can create problems with the communication process. If employers choose the eSides option, it removes the TPA from the mix. The TPA is no longer engaged via SIDES to act on the employer’s behalf and in many cases, all workflow goes through the portal. Unless the employer logs into the state’s portal, they are unaware there are claim documents that require a response.
Your administrator for any state portal should be someone with experience and a long-term employee. If the administrator leaves your organization, it becomes very difficult to make any changes to the account later without involving a corporate officer which can be cumbersome. Also, avoid changes to eSides or electronic communications by any user of the portal. It may sound like a good plan, but in the end it throws a wrench into the processes and may result in late claim document responses.
Finally, many states are modernizing or enhancing portals which can include chat bots or other technology that could change the landscape. Experian Employer Services sends out notifications to clients advising when a state will be launching a new or updated portal and also provide any documentation we can obtain from the state about the portal or changes being made. Of note, there are 17 states that received an $11.2 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) last fall, specifically to modernize their unemployment platforms so over the next few years, we will see at least 17 states launching new or improved portals.