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New requirement added for Alabama residents to maintain unemployment benefits

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 8:39 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 8:40 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - Lawmakers recently approved a bill that will impact Alabama residents on unemployment assistance.

According to Sen. Arthur Orr, the bill’s sponsor, Senate Bill 224 originated as an idea from the Small Business Task Force. This was a commission that met in the offseason before the legislative session. On Tuesday, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

Under the current law and regulations of the Alabama Department of Labor, an individual who is on unemployment assistance or unemployment insurance is required to search for one job per week. Senator Orr says this isn’t enough.

Starting in January 2023, the new law will require individuals to contact three prospective employers each week that unemployment is claimed in order to keep receiving compensation benefits, according to Sen. Orr.

”You can’t contact somebody who has no openings and count that as one. You’ve got to put in three applications or some kind of solicitation for the job where there are openings,” said Sen. Orr.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the new law will require the Department to conduct an audit of about 5% of those claims to ensure residents are meeting the new requirement.

“There is an audit part of the bill, where the Department of Labor will be auditing individuals. So, if an individual says, ‘I put in an application with XYZ corporation,’ the Department of Labor will contact them and find out whether or not an application was tendered by that particular unemployed individual,” Sen. Orr said.

Tara Hutchison, the Communications Director of the Department of Labor, says they are working with the legislature to find the most efficient method of conducting the audits and are still working out some of the technicalities and operations.

She says, similar to current regulations, if the Department finds out an individual is not meeting the requirements, there will be a penalty.

“There has always been a requirement that you must be able and available to work in order to receive unemployment compensation, and that able and available requirement also means that you must be actively searching for work,” said Hutchison.

“If you are not conducting those active work searches, then we can disqualify you from receiving unemployment compensation benefits,” she added.

According to Hutchison, there are a lot of different ways to meet the new requirement. She says you don’t have to visit jobs in person if you are worried about the coronavirus.

Hutchison says residents, who are struggling, can visit their local career center for assistance; various programs, such as occupational trainings, veterans’ services, and job search and development sessions are being offered at the facilities.

For more information and to find your local career center, visit the DOL’s website.

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