On July 1st, the state Employment Development Department announced that it had successfully implemented changes to the California Training Benefits (CTB) program as result of legislation co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation last year. The measure, AB 2058 by Assemblyman Marty Block, expanded program eligibility for individuals attending school or training while collecting UI benefits.
The problem was that many unemployed workers who were eligible to get training decided not to do so for fear of losing their UI benefits. Prior automatically approved training was limited to programs funded by the Employment Training Panel, the federal Workforce Investment Act, CalWORKs, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. A UI recipient seeking training not authorized under these funding sources had to endure a lengthy and confusing eligibility process through EDD that often delayed training, disrupted or suspended UI benefits, and sometimes even jeopardized an existing UI claim.
AB 2058 accomplished both streamlining CTB eligibility and expanding access to skills training with a very simple and straightforward change to the current law: it makes ETPL-approved training automatically eligible for CTB. Laid off workers can be eligible for UI benefits and be enrolled in training programs.
Federal law already requires that the State and each local Workforce Investment Area establish and maintain Eligible Training Provider Lists (ETPL) for the distribution of federal training dollars. AB 2058 simply expands automatically approved training to include programs on the State and local ETPLs, thereby reducing the administrative burden at EDD and time in determining training program eligibility.
The change expands approved training programs to include career training through community colleges. By making ETPL-approved training automatically eligible for CTB, AB 2058 makes quality career training programs offered though California’s community colleges more accessible to UI beneficiaries seeking new job skills. The ETPL process ensures that college programs, and all other eligible training, are job-oriented and geared toward timely re-employment.
Though the change in the statute was fairly straight-forward, implementation has required a number of additional steps. During the last few months, the EDD has made changes to internal policy and procedures to make sure the intended changes were put in motion, including:
- Providing information to individuals calling EDD through a new Interactive Voice Response self-service telephone system;
- Updating the publicly accessible UI law and policy manual known as the “Benefit Determination Guide” for establishing CTB program eligibility;
- Updating the internal UI procedures manual used by staff; and
- Updating the EDD public Web site along with twenty different EDD forms and publications.
The new rules will impact all CTB decisions issued for training that begins on or after July 1, 2011.
During this persistent economic recession, it only makes sense that Californians should be able to keep their UI benefits while enrolled in approved training. Now these changes will make it easier to do just that.