U.S. States Balk at Providing Data on Jobless-Benefits Denials
(Bloomberg) -- Colorado’s labor department wanted $13,608 for the data, then declined to provide it for privacy reasons. Wisconsin’s begged off, claiming it was overwhelmed with unemployment claims. New York took eight months to respond with a request for an additional 90 days.
These were just some of the responses to open-records requests from Bloomberg News to all 50 states for demographic data about the recipients of unemployment benefits in the year after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Only one state, Georgia, provided anonymized data for all claimants -- and that took weeks of negotiations. Texas and California provided aggregate data. Most found excuses not to comply.
Just who did and did not have access to the more than $860 billion in unemployment benefits paid out during the pandemic is a fundamental question policy makers and taxpayers should be able to answer. The U.S. Department of Labor requires states to file monthly reports on the demographics of recipients of unemployment insurance payments. It does not mandate the same for the millions rejected by state labor agencies.
One key takeaway of Bloomberg’s efforts: States are reluctant to share the data. Some, including Kansas and Nebraska, invoked state public records laws that do not require agencies to share data that require compiling or are not readily available in a report. Others, like Wisconsin, said they were too busy trying to support those who lost jobs. “Therefore,” wrote Jennifer Sereno, a spokeswoman for that state’s Department of Workforce Development, “the Department will not be providing responsive records.”
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