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Archived: Municipal Frustration Underscores Need for Unemployment Reform

Posted on March 5, 2012

Administrators from 23 Massachusetts cities and towns wrote to Governor Deval Patrick recently to protest repeated approvals by the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) of inappropriate unemployment insurance awards to former public workers.   Governor Patrick promised, “I’m going to get to the bottom of that.”

Unemployment InsuranceTo which Massachusetts businesses can only say, “Finally!”

Head-scratching unemployment awards are not specifically, or primarily, a public sector issue. Nor are they, in legal terms, clear-cut instances of abuse – Chapter 151A, the state’s Unemployment Insurance law, has consistently been interpreted as enjoining DUA to bend over backwards to rule in favor of ex-employees.

The issues surrounding Chapter 151A are hardly breaking news to AIM or anyone who has experienced the UI system firsthand. But now that public entities and agencies covered by the law’s provisions have publicized some of the more egregious assaults on common sense, the level of attention and outrage are on the rise.

The numerous complaints by businesses over many years have never elicited the response drawn by the municipal officials’ letter.  Now that the response is out in the open, we look forward to a joint effort to address the systemic problems that the letter addressed.

The trouble is a system that tolerates abuse by participants.  AIM has proposed a number of structural reforms contained in House Bill 2300. Given the outrage among the commonwealth’s public and private employers, now is the time for action. We urge the Legislature and the governor to work with  employers and municipal leaders to pass meaningful UI reform this year to reign in the problem.

What stories do you have about UI decisions that fly in the face of common sense?  Send your examples by email to