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Holcomb: Jobless Hoosiers seeking benefits will again need to ‘actively seek employment’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hoosiers seeking unemployment benefits will soon again have to prove they are actively seeking jobs and available to work, according to a statement issued Friday by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Near the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced March 24, 2020, that any Hoosiers out of work, including temporary layoffs, were eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. That change eliminated several requirements, including one that required recipients of jobless benefits to be actively seeking employment.

The governor’s statement, issued by digital communications director Alec Gray, said that he will “issue an executive order early next week that will reinstate the requirement that unemployment insurance claimants actively seek employment and be available for work, which we have waived since the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve also directed DWD to assure we are providing all needed support services for those who are out of work.”

The statement also said the governor has “asked the Department of Workforce Development to complete a demographic analysis of unemployed Hoosiers over the past 16 months so I have the best information available to make an informed decision about whether the state should continue to participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs. Part of that analysis is to compare our workforce now versus before the start of the pandemic. Our unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent, which is near pre-pandemic levels, and our labor force mirrors pre-pandemic levels, when we also had worker shortages. We must concentrate on building the right pathways to match people with the skill sets employers need and to attract more people to join our workforce.”

Workforce Development has been the recipient of widespread complaints from Hoosiers seeking jobless benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, with some people waiting for months for responses from the department and others giving up entirely on trying to get responses from the state.

Workforce Development told News 8 in February that 23% of the benefit claimants who have attempted to verify their identities have been flagged as suspected fraud cases. The bureaucratic tape has slowed down the process for many Hoosiers to seek jobless benefits.