Newsletter_Jan2015

Newsletter_Jan2015

​​​​​​​​IDES Employer Newsletter​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Message from the
Director of IDES

Our Collective Challenge

It is has been my honor to serve as the Director the Department of Employment Security for the past three and half years. It is unfortunate that the media portrays public servants in a negative way. This portrayal does not reflect what I see at IDES. I have been lucky to work with a group of exceedingly dedicated and committed individuals who did not shrink from any challenge.

We were faced with uncertain funding from Washington D.C. where Congress shut down government, sequestered grants and reduced our operational funding by more than 25 percent. The budget reductions came at the same time that healthcare and pension costs nearly doubled. Adding to our financial challenge was $45 million in debt to a state agency that had accumulated over the years.

Tough choices had to be made, in fact some of the most difficult of my life. To live within our means we had to lay off hundreds of our friends and co-workers. I required our managers to justify every contract and expense in our budget. We literally went through every telephone line to cut costs.

We used this crisis to remake IDES. When we started, the vast majority of unemployment insurance claims we filed in person and on paper. The process might have been familiar, but it was expensive, time-consuming and often inaccurate. In fact, Illinois was one of the last states in the country to embrace technology and other best practices established more than a decade ago. Today, fewer than 5 percent of claims are filed in-person and our accuracy rates continue to improve.

Other critical advancements were made to help people return to work. Three years ago, the state's job board was so outdated and clunky that it largely was ignored by workers and employers. Today, there are more than 170,000 help-wanted ads on IllinoisJobLink.com posted by tens of thousands of employers. New tools were incorporated to help those comfortable building a resume as well as those who previously did not need to put their skills in writing to find employment. Further, Illinois is the first state in the nation to embrace a public-private partnership to optimize resumes for specific help-wanted ads so that the person is more likely to earn an interview and job offer.

At the end of the day, that is what we do. We help a person find a job. Today, IDES is Illinois' Employment Office. To learn more about our accomplishments, a summary of our report is in this month's enewsletter.

Looking forward, I know more needs to be done. Illinois remains one of the only states that scatters federally funded workforce programs across many different state Departments. Years ago, nearly every state in the Union consolidated these federally funded programs into one state Department to ensure a defined pathway to a job or job training. Consolidating these programs is not necessary provided different state agencies can coordinate - share goals, plan together, and adopt compatible if not the same IT systems. For example, 14 other states utilize the software tool we call IllinoisJobLink.com to administer all federally funded workforce programs. A single-system model would immediately lead to cost savings - old computer systems could be retired, branding and marketing competing systems would no longer be necessary, and duplicative administrative costs could be cut. Universal adoption of IllinoisJobLink.com would strengthen and grow our economy because it would allow for:

  • Unified assessments to direct job seekers to specific training and services,
  • Standardized metrics to gauge program effectiveness (required under recent federal law changes),
  • Single sign-on registration and easy, electronic referrals to different services provided by various agencies,
  • Connecting job seekers to the 170,000 jobs in IllinoisJobLink.com.


Most importantly, it would connect more folks to jobs. That is what I enjoyed most about being at IDES - talking to someone we had just helped get a job. It changed their lives. We can do that for even more people in Illinois.

Although I won't be at IDES to see it, I am hopeful that the Department's new Director will lead us in this direction.​

Jay Rowell, Director

Jay Rowell, Director

Illinois Department of Employment Security


Illinoisjoblink.com

Find success. Find that new career. Go to IllinoisJobLink.com today.​

​​
Your Security

Username and Password

The username and password are part of IDES' security system. A few things to remember about them:

  • The username and password are different in all instances.
  • The username and password at IDES' homepage, www.ides.illinois.gov, are not the same as the username and password used at the state's job board that IDES operates, www.illinoisjoblink.com.
  • Individuals should record each username and password for future reference. Individuals should not rely upon their memory.
  • The password at www.ides.illinois.gov lasts for 90 days. Individuals who have a username and password, but have not used it 90 days, should create a new password. 
  • The password at IllinoisJobLink.com must be changed every 30 days. Users will be prompted to change the password at the appropriate time.

A username typically is defined as a name that someone uses for identification purposes when logging onto a computer, an email address or other computer-based forum such as a remote worksite or gaming website. The word is believed to be used prior to 1971, when it first appeared in common dictionaries.

A password is typically defined as a secret word or phrase that ensures admission or acceptance by proving identity or membership. Its use dates to the 1700s.

Many individuals used this basic security device before home computing and smartphones were everywhere. Cable television, for example, was an early adoptee as a tool to restrict content from younger viewers.

Today, the use of a username and password is common. Students, some at the elementary school level, use the username and password system inside their classrooms as well as at home to access homework. Electronic banking and credit card systems also embrace the technology.

The technology, and the convenience it provides, can turn frustrating when the username and password are forgotten or expire. Please take the necessary steps today so you can escape the frustration tomorrow.


Education and Employability

Bright Start and Bright Directions

Bright Start and Bright DirectionsA college education can be the ultimate skills training to increase employability. Tuition hikes, however, have increasingly made saving for college a daunting proposition for many Illinois families.

There is no reason to fret, however. The Illinois State Treasurer's office offers two 529 college saving programs that allow families to save money toward a student's education without having to pay taxes on any earnings.

Bright Start and Bright Directions are financial planning products that create tax exempt college saving accounts for families looking to save for their child's education. Whether it is a community college, technical school or a prestigious private university, these two 529 programs help prepare for future college expenses.

A Bright Start college savings program can be opened for as little as $25. Bright Start acts much like a 401(k) plan in that it allows you to invest in various assets classes in order to save and grow the fund. Once it is time for school, tax-free withdrawals can be made for qualified expenses at most colleges - whether they are in state, out of state or abroad.

Bright Directions is a similar program that can offer similar benefits, but is managed directly by an approved investment professional.

You can enroll in Bright Start today by going to the website www.brightstartsavings.com Printable forms also are available online if you would like to fill out a paper application and mail it in. Information on how to find an investment professional to navigate Bright Directions enrollment is available at www.brightdirections.com.

A college education should be attainable for everyone. Employment data shows that people with a college education have a significantly higher average salary than non-college educated workers. And with Bright Start and Bright Directions, saving money for college can be a whole lot easier.

Okay, now for legal:
The Bright Start® College Savings Program is administered by the State Treasurer of the State of Illinois and distributed by OppenheimerFunds Distributor, Inc. OFI Private Investments Inc., a subsidiary of OppenheimerFunds, Inc., is the program manager of the Plan. Some states offer favorable tax treatment to their residents only if they invest in the state's own plan. Investors should consider before investing whether their or their designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program and should consult their tax advisor. These securities are neither FDIC insured nor guaranteed and may lose value.

The Bright Directions College Savings Program is part of the Illinois College Savings Pool and is designed to qualify as a qualified tuition program under the provisions of Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Bright Directions College Savings Program is sponsored by the State of Illinois and administered by the Illinois State Treasurer, as Trustee. Union Bank & Trust Company serves as Program Manager, and Northern Trust Securities, Inc. acts as Distributor. Investments in the Bright Directions College Savings Program are not guaranteed or insured by the State of Illinois, the Illinois State Treasurer, Union Bank & Trust Company, Northern Trust Securities, Inc., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or any other entity.

Investors should read carefully and consider the investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses contained in the Program Disclosure Statement (issuer's official statement) before investing. You can lose money by investing in a Portfolio. Each of the Portfolios involves investment risks, which are described in the Program Disclosure Statement. The Program Disclosure Statement, which contains additional information about the plan and municipal fund securities, is available from your financial advisor.

You should consider, before investing, whether your home state or the designated beneficiary's home state offers a 529 plan that provides state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in the home state's 529 plan. You should consult with a tax advisor about state and local taxes.


Taxes

1099 Form Needed for Tax Returns

1099 Form Needed for Tax ReturnsUnemployment insurance benefits are subject to federal and state income taxes.

The 1099G tax form will be available in January. Registration has closed to receive e-mail notification of the tax form's availability for 2014. If you did not register for the e-mail notification, the 1099G tax form will be mailed to your home.

The 1099G tax forms for previous years are available here.

Individuals who have not created a username and password to manage their account will be prompted to do so. Once registered, a notice will be emailed in January with instructions on how to print the document from IDES' website.

Individuals who have a username and password, but have not used it 90 days, should create a new password. 

Last year, making this form available to be printed rather than mailed saved taxpayers $200,000.


Entrepreneurship

SET for Success

SET for SuccessUnemployed or earning less than you used to?

Thinking about starting your own business?

Living in Chicago or Cook County?

Apply to the Self-Employment Training (SET) program for the chance to receive:

  • Free training on business start-up topics
  • Free help with business plans, marketing and loan applications
  • Regular access to an experienced advisor to help you face business challenges
  • Up to $1,000 in grant funding to help start your business

The SET program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Visit www.SET-Demo.com for more information.

The Self-Employment Training (SET) program seeks to help dislocated workers start businesses in their fields of expertise. The program will offer each participant a customized package of self-employment training and other services. All are free.

Each participant will have an advisor who will provide on-going guidance and support. Services could include microenterprise classes and training. Individual business development support with potential access to peer support groups also might be available.

Individuals collecting unemployment insurance benefits might qualify for a work-search waiver that would allow for benefits to continue while participating in the SET program. In addition, participants are eligible for a seed capital microgrant of up to $1,000 if they strongly engage with the program and achieve key business development milestones, such as completing a comprehensive business plan.

To be considered for this program, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and be able to work permanently in the United States. The business proposal must be related to some area of expertise or past experience. Successful applicants also must agree to participate in a study related to the program.

Visit www.SET-Demo.com for more information.


Economy

Alliance for Regional Development

Alliance for Regional Development 

 

Economic growth does not recognize lines on a map. Collaboration is critical to growing the economy and developing new opportunities for growth and employment. That is why collaboration is at the heart of the Alliance for Regional Development.

The Alliance features leaders from Chicago, Northeast Illinois, Southeast Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana.

Its purpose is to grow the regional economy. Tri-state leaders representing business, government and academia share innovative ideas and best practices that can filter to local economic groups. The Alliance focuses on four key areas: workforce development, innovation, transportation and logistics, and green growth.

To that end, the Alliance created a Human Capital Team. The purpose is to connect with existing businesses, those considering locating in the region, and site selector consultants to clearly communicate the region's quality workforce, logistical advantages and other benefits.

The Alliance incorporates a team approach. For example, driven by Illinois' success to transform job fairs into Hiring Events, the Human Capital Team created a video showing how pre-screening job applicants against an employer's job opening allowed for employment interviews to be scheduled at the event. The behind-the-scenes prep work creates a more productive employer experience and the potential for job offers to be made at the Hiring Event.

While many leaders contribute to the Alliance, especially its Executive Committee, Kelly O'Brien leads the day-to-day charge. She can be reached at the Alliance's office in Chicago at (312) 602-5148 and at kobrien@alliancerd.org.


Monthly Wage Report

Relief from Penalties and Interest?

Relief from Penalties and Interest?To fight theft and abuse in public assistance programs such as Medicaid and unemployment insurance, lawmakers required certain employers to submit wage reports on a monthly basis. Previously, all employers reported such information quarterly. For the same purpose, agreed rulemaking also expanded the requirement for electronic wage reporting to more employers.

Among other things, wage reports help stop improper benefit payments before they are issued. Electronic and monthly wage reporting have the potential to stop improper payments sooner and save Illinois taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The unemployment benefit savings would apply downward pressure on unemployment insurance tax rates.

The new wage reporting requirements were implemented starting in 2013, although the monthly reporting requirement was not fully phased in until July 2014. As with any program that touches so many employers, the change was communicated using several channels, including direct mail, email, media reports and trade groups.

Despite the Department's outreach efforts, some employers apparently genuinely misunderstood the implementation schedule for the expanded electronic reporting requirement to be the same as the schedule for monthly reporting. Additionally, some employers experienced problems transitioning to monthly reporting, despite their good faith efforts. Employers incurred penalties and associated interest charges as a result of those issues.

To address the matter, the Department adopted emergency rulemaking agreed to by the business and labor communities. In a nutshell, the rules do two things. They retroactively implement the expanded electronic reporting requirement according to the same schedule as that for the monthly reporting requirement. That change will remove penalties and interest employers incurred as a result of confusion over the expansion's implementation schedule. The rule changes will also waive up to the first two quarters' worth of penalties, along with any related interest, for late monthly reports, as long as the employer timely submitted quarterly reports.

The Department is now conducting the IT work necessary to automatically remove the penalties and interest to the extent the new rules permit. Employers will not have to specifically request waivers. The system work is expected to take approximately six months. In the interim, employers will continue to see the penalties and interest on their quarterly Statements of Account. To expedite the removal of the penalties and interest, employers should make sure to use TaxNet, or the payment coupon provided by the Department, to submit quarterly contribution payments.

Employers who have already paid the penalty and any associated interest will be given a credit to be applied towards future quarterly contributions.

When the system changes are completed, employers will be notified of any penalties and interest that was waived, removed, or credited.

If an employer has requested waiver of a penalty but the new rules do not appear to permit automatic removal of the penalty, the Department will process the waiver request individually, to see if there may be some other basis for waiver. The employer will have the right to appeal any unfavorable decision.

We apologize for any inconvenience. Ultimately, however, monthly wage reporting promises to be a key tool to fight fraud and apply downward pressure on unemployment insurance tax rates.

If you have any questions please call the Employer Hotline at (800) 247-4984.


Accomplishments

New Year, New Opportunities

New Year New OpportunitiesA new year brings with it the excitement of opportunity. To determine where we are going, we must reflect on where we have been.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has focused on the twin goals of enhancing the integrity of the unemployment insurance program and turning IDES into Illinois' Employment Office.

Let's begin with 2011 as many states, Illinois included, wrestled away from the long shadows of the Great Recession. IDES worked in a bipartisan fashion to negotiate the 2011 Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund reform legislation. The legislation laid out a path to solvency for the state's trust fund that was more than $2 billion in debt. The legislation also reduced taxes on Illinois businesses by $400 million during the next eight years and created the tools to prevent fraud and criminal abuse.

Job vacancies are inefficient for employers. As an employment agency, IDES recognized it must do more to connect the unemployed with these current vacancies. With input from the private sector, IDES reorganized into an employment-focused state agency and created a Business Services Division without expanding overall headcount. Business Services Coordinators (BSC) work with employers to recruit the skilled workforce they need to grow. To ensure employers find the right match, the BSCs use IDES' IllinoisJobLink.com, launched in 2012, to showcase monthly job openings consistently eclipsing 170,000.

Finding employment for those receiving public assistance often breaks the cycle of poverty. That is why IDES manages tax credits that incentivize the hiring of harder to employ individuals such as the formerly incarcerated, food assistance recipients and others. By streamlining and automating the Work Opportunity Tax Credit application and approval process, IDES transformed a $66 million program in 2011 and grew it to more than $185 million in 2013. In 2013 alone, the program helped more than 85,000 Illinoisans get a job.

We also re-envisioned the job fair into Hiring Events. Today, prior to the event, employers post their openings in IllinoisJobLink.com and IDES employees compare the skills in the help-wanted ad with thousands of resumes in IDES' database. IDES identifies qualified candidates, sends their resumes to employers and schedules interviews at the hiring event which lead to immediate offers of employment. IDES has helped thousands secure employment through this model, which has been submitted to the White House as a national best practice.

Being a good steward of taxpayer money goes beyond re-employing workers as quickly as possible. We also must ensure the integrity of the unemployment insurance program. To that end, IDES has recovered $129 million in fraudulent payments made to claimants during the past three years through a partnership with the Internal Revenue Service that allows IDES to garnish tax refunds of individuals adjudicated to have defrauded the unemployment insurance program. We also have identified $70 million for future collection.

More importantly, we have prevented more than $285 million in improper payments before they were made through a series of data cross matches such as the National Directory of New Hires, Driver's License information and incarceration records.

All state agencies must look for innovative partnerships to support our economy. That is why IDES worked with others, especially the Illinois Department of Labor, to crack down on employers who intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors. In the first quarter of 2014, IDES identified three times more misclassified workers than in the same period in 2013, including four times the unreported wages.

IDES also assumed a leadership role in Veteran employment. In 2013, IDES helped more than 12,000 Veterans seek and obtain employment. This was accomplished through partnerships with the US Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Heroes, Chase's 100,000 jobs initiative and creating innovative programs with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs such as Illinois Hires Heroes.

Organizational growth comes through short- and long-term planning. IDES has been able to make signification progress despite being required to cut the operational budget by more than 25 percent, largely due to federal funding decreases.

The IDES-managed unemployment insurance program is viewed as a national leader among state workforce agencies. Key to that recognition is our state's commitment to supporting the economy through temporary financial assistance for workers and no-cost HR recruitment for employers. Bipartisan collaboration paved the way for achievement. Looking ahead, there is every reason to believe that progress will continue.​


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