Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rates have skyrocketed. CNBC reported that, in September, the long-term unemployment rate in the U.S. rose to 2.4 million, a record high for the COVID-19 pandemic.
State unemployment agencies are struggling to keep up with the demand. Applications and other processes related to unemployment need to be handled quickly and at a high volume. Intelligent automation (IA) streamlines back-office tasks, allowing unemployment processes to be completed more quickly and accurately, eliminating fraud and creating a better experience for applicants.
The pressure for faster claims processing
State unemployment agencies are under a lot of pressure to process claims quickly. The challenges people have had trying to apply for unemployment benefits have added to the stress of losing jobs during the pandemic. The unemployed rely on their benefits to keep their heads above water. They need these benefits to pay rent, keep utilities on, and buy groceries. When faced with long wait times and systems that are prone to shutdowns, applicants complain publicly, appearing on the local and national news.
State unemployment agencies have trouble with backlogs and issuing timely payments. Back-end processing of unemployment applications is often manual, labor intensive, and filled with bottlenecks. For example, many states still use mailers to verify loss of employment, delaying processing by at least a few days.
As a result, some people who get laid off don’t get their benefits for months. Applicants may spend hours or even days trying to get a call through to a person to address their concerns.
States also experience fraud from people applying who aren’t qualified. According to Bloomberg Law, 11 states have reported an increase in fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic. Increased application volume and the pressure to process claims quickly make catching fraud challenging.
IA can solve these problems by replacing manual processes with workflows carried out by digital workers. These digital workers speed up processes and verify the identity of applicants to prevent fraud.
Here are three positive outcomes IA creates for unemployment agencies:
The state needs to calculate maximum allowed benefits for unemployment applicants. These calculations are complex and require pulling figures from many documents. Making accurate calculations takes the time and expertise of a claims processor.
To calculate these benefits, the state must look at what applicants earned when they were employed. To do this, the unemployment agency needs to examine tax statements. Gross income must be extracted from these documents. This income must then be quartered out to estimate what applicants are eligible for and what bracket they fall into.
IA is ideally suited to extracting information and performing complex calculations. Digital workers unburden claims processors of this work. IA can make financial calculations quickly and accurately without the need for human intervention.
To avoid fraud, unemployment agencies must put every applicant through a process of identity verification. To verify identity, the state needs to go to a third-party system.
For example, for driver’s license verification, a clerk needs to go to the third-party system to verify. This system can vet applicants to determine that they are residents of the state. However, the clerk must manually type in information before running a search.
With IA, the digital worker extracts data automatically and then goes to the third-party system. If the clerk just feeds the license into the system, it will process to generate output instantaneously. Verifying an applicant’s identity with IA takes time pressure off human workers and reduces the chance that a fraudulent application will slip through.
Speed of verification
After wage verification has been processed, some claims must go through a second process of independent wage verification, adding time to the overall application process. When the unemployment office sends out a letter, the constituent can protest it. At this point, applicants may supply supporting documents that were missed during the first wage verification process.
When a discrepancy occurs, a digital worker can examine the document and assign the case to the right person. Digital workers can also send a notification, improving communication with employees and constituents. If new calculations need to be made, a digital worker can make calculations for those quarters.
Accelerating this independent wage verification process and making contact with applicants helps take some of the burden off human workers and cultivates much-needed goodwill between the unemployment agency and the public.
Finding more IA use cases
IA creates positive outcomes for both state unemployment agencies and their constituents. With Blue Prism IA, 10 digital workers can process up to 14,000 unemployment applications per day. The entire automated end-to-end process can be completed in under two minutes, 30x faster than completing the process manually.
With BP IA, agencies can:
- Improve quality of service
- Deliver a seamless experience
- Capture constituent information
- Reduce service costs
- Maintain compliance
- Reduce fraud
These IA unemployment application use cases are the tip of the iceberg for state agencies. The pandemic has awakened the industry to the need for IA, but establishing an automation program means uncovering more opportunities for digital workflows.
For example, COVID-19 victims are recovering, but recovery can be slow. People who haven’t recovered entirely may be applying for SSI benefits. Intelligent automation can help streamline this process during a time of increased demand. Intelligent automation can also be used for routine HR onboarding processes.
Blue Prism has many pre-built automations. We also make it easier for companies to develop and deploy their own intelligent automations.
MCCi has deep expertise in working with state agencies to automate end-to-end business processes. Learn more about how they can help transform the way you work.