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Revisiting the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Insolvency


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Repaying the State’s Federal Unemployment Insurance Loan

May 26, 2021 - The Governor’s 2021‑22 May Revision budget proposes $36 million General Fund to pay the first, partial payment on the state’s outstanding federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) loan and proposes to direct $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funds to pay down a portion of the outstanding loan. In this post, we (1) provide an overview of the state’s UI system financing, (2) highlight how the pandemic affected the UI system, (3) look ahead to upcoming costs to employers and the state to repay the federal UI loan, and (4) assess the Governor’s proposed $1.1 billion pre-payment.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Interest Payment on Federal Unemployment Insurance Loan

February 10, 2021 - The 2021-22 Governor’s Budget proposes $555 million General Fund to make the first interest payment on federal loans the state received to pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefits after the UI fund became insolvent during the pandemic. Our office’s estimate of the upcoming interest payment is much lower—about $260 million. This lower estimate reflects (1) more plausible, up-to-date economic projections and (2) recent federal action to waive a portion of accrued interest for 2021. We recommend the Legislature adopt this lower placeholder amount. In addition, we recommend the Legislature take advantage of a provision of federal law that allows states to defer 75 percent of their UI loan interest payments during economic downturns. If the state chooses to partially defer its interest payment, we estimate the 2021-22 UI loan interest payment would total roughly $65 million.

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California's Other Budget Deficit: The Unemployment Insurance Fund Insolvency

October 20, 2010 - California's Unemployment Insurance (UI) program became insolvent in 2009, ending that year with a shortfall of $6.2 billion. Absent corrective action, the fund deficit is projected to increase to approximately $20 billion at the end of 2011. This report looks at the history of the UI program, compares California's program to those in other states, examines different scenarios for addressing the insolvency, and makes recommendations to the Legislature for solving this difficult problem.

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Managing California’s Insolvency: The Impact of Federal Proposals on Unemployment Insurance

July 7, 2011 - Beginning in 2008, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) funds of many states, including California’s, were under stress and soon became insolvent. Many states sought loans from the federal government. As of June 2011, California’s outstanding federal loan totaled over $10 billion. Three federal proposals have recently been introduced to address the insolvency issue. All three would improve the solvency of California’s UI fund and two would likely eliminate California’s UI fund deficit by 2016. Regardless of whether Congress acts, we recommend that the Legislature ensure implementation of a long–term solvency plan by 2014. If federal reforms are enacted, it is likely that no additional action by the Legislature will be necessary. However, if no federal reforms are enacted, it will be critically important for the Legislature to adopt its own long–term solvency plan. We recommend that the Legislature consider an approach which includes both increased employer contributions and decreased benefits for UI claimants.

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The 2022-23 Budget: State Payments on the Federal Unemployment Insurance Loan

February 15, 2022 - In this post, we provide a projection of state and employer costs to repay the federal Unemployment Insurance loan under two economic scenarios, assess the effects of the Governor's proposed $3 billion General Fund payment toward the outstanding loan, and present an alternative to the Governor's proposal that could provide more immediate tax relief.

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[PDF] Major Issues Facing the Unemployment Insurance Program

May 10, 2017 - Presented to: Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee

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[PDF] California's Unemployment Insurance Program: Gaining Insight Through Comparison to Other States

October 13, 2011 - Since 2008, the cost of providing unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in many states has exceeded available resources. As a result, by 2010 the UI funds in 32 states were insolvent, forcing those states to obtain loans from the federal government to continue payment of UI benefits. In this report, we conduct a comparative analysis of the UI programs in all 50 states and Washington D.C. to provide context for the Legislature in considering potential solutions to California's UI insolvency. Our analysis finds that California’s UI program pays comparatively lower weekly benefits, but pays these weekly benefits for a longer duration and to a relatively larger caseload. As a result, California has comparatively higher total program costs. To the extent the Legislature desires, California’s comparatively high cost structure could be mitigated by changing its UI eligibility and benefits duration policies. However, regardless of UI policies, California’s UI program is likely to have a higher UI cost structure than the average U.S. state as a result of its comparatively worse labor market.

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[PDF] Improving California’s Unemployment Insurance Program

August 8, 2022 - California's Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides wage replacement to unemployed workers. The program has faltered during recent downturns, causing hardship for workers and their families, holding back the state's economic recovery, and spurring frustration among Californians with their government. Recent failures trace back to the UI program's basic design, which results in more emphasis being placed on limiting fraud and business costs than making sure eligible workers get benefits quickly and easily. Although this emphasis is not new, the pandemic has highlighted the need to rebalance the UI program. We recommend about a dozen targeted changes to state practices to place a greater priority on getting payments to eligible unemployed workers.

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COVID-19: Unemployment Insurance for Workers Impacted by COVID-19

March 23, 2020 - This post summarizes recent federal relief actions in the unemployment insurance program, discusses how these federal actions interact with current state programs, and highlight options the Legislature may want to pursue in responding to the ongoing crisis.