U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Employment and Training Administration
Washington, D. C. 20210
September 22, 1998
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROGRAM LETTER NO. 47-98
ALL STATE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY AGENCIES
GRACE A. KILBANE
Proposed Rule--Verification of Eligibility for Federal Public Benefits (Federal Unemployment Compensation Programs)
Purpose. To advise State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs) of the publication of proposed regulations by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that would impact the States' administration of Federal unemployment compensation (UC) programs and of the opportunity to provide comments. The proposed rule requires procedures that may be a significant departure from the general methods of filing for intrastate and interstate Federal and State UC depending upon the State's current filing practices.
References. Section 432 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) (also referred to as the Welfare Reform Act of 1996) (Pub. L. 104-193), as amended by section 504 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-208) and by section 5572 of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-33, 8 U.S.C. 1642); 63 FR 41662 (August 4, 1998).
Background. The above-referenced statutes provide that only United States nationals (which includes U.S. citizens) and "qualified aliens" are eligible for Federal public benefits (with certain exceptions). A "Federal public benefit", as defined in the proposed rule at section 104.1(i) is the same as the statutory definition at 8 U.S.C. 1611(c) and includes an "unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual ... by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States." Therefore, unemployment benefits payable under all Federal unemployment compensation programs (UCFE, UCX, DUA, TRA) and joint Federal/State programs, including extended benefits (EB), are "Federal public benefits."
PRWORA section 432 mandates the verification of eligibility of qualified aliens for Federal public benefits. It directs the Attorney General (DOJ/Immigration and Naturalization Service (DOJ/INS)) to issue regulations for such verification utilizing, to the extent feasible, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.
Previously, section 121 of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the provisions of which are codified at 42 U.S.C. 1320b-7(d) (also known as section 1137(d) of the Social Security Act), required verification of "satisfactory immigration status" of aliens applying for State unemployment insurance benefits through the SAVE program. The PRWORA requires further expansion of verification programs (and provisions and procedures set forth in the DOJ/INS rule) to all agencies administering Federal public benefits that are affected by PRWORA's new limitations on alien eligibility on a mandatory basis and to agencies administering certain State and local benefits on a voluntary basis (which would include State UI programs). For example, the definition of "qualified alien" is more restrictive than the definition of an alien in "satisfactory immigration status," because it does not include all categories of aliens that are authorized to work in the United States (e.g., H2A migrant farm workers are not included).
Since the statute limits eligibility for Federal public benefits to U.S. nationals and qualified aliens, the proposed DOJ/INS regulations provide for verifying the status of U.S. nationals, as well as aliens, because the statutory provisions must be administered in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. Individuals may not be treated differently because of their national origins.
Any Federal or State agency administering Federal public benefits must adhere to the regulatory requirements and procedures that will be promulgated by DOJ/INS. If an agency has its own regulations covering the verification of status and eligibility, such regulations must be approved by DOJ/INS with respect to Federal public benefits.
Further, the statute (8 U.S.C. 1612(a)(2)(c)) provides that for eligibility for any ex-military service benefits, which would include UCX benefits, an alien must have been separated with an "honorable discharge." This requirement is in addition to verification that an individual is a "qualified alien." Therefore, any separation from the service for reasons other than an "honorable discharge," precludes the use of military service wage credits to determine UCX eligibility for an alien. Thus, for example, a separation from the military "under honorable conditions," which can qualify a U.S. national for UCX benefits, is disqualifying in the case of an alien.
Substance. The proposed DOJ/INS rule (8 CFR Part 104), published at 63 FR 41662 (August 4, 1998), sets forth the proposed procedures and requirements for verifying eligibility for Federal public benefits. Federal agencies such as the Department of Labor, and its agents, in this case, the SESAs, are subject to the rule.
Under the proposed rule, all individuals applying for Federal public benefits would have to certify under penalty of Federal law whether or not they are U.S. nationals. All aliens applying for a Federal public benefit (Federal UC programs and joint Federal/State program benefits) would have to report in person to a local office to present identifying information and alien status documents. SESAs would then verify through the SAVE system that the individual is a qualified alien. This procedure does not differ significantly from the current procedure required for aliens applying for State UI benefits, except in some cases where State UI claimants are allowed to submit copies of documents by mail.
However, a significant change will occur for U.S. nationals. The proposed rule contemplates that all U.S. nationals applying for Federal UC and any partially Federally funded UC benefits will have to report in person and present identifying information (picture ID or other proof of identification acceptable to the State) and proof of U.S. national status, such as a birth certificate for U.S. citizens. There are primary and secondary forms of documentation set forth in the proposed rule that may be submitted in lieu of a birth certificate. The proposed rule does permit eligibility for Federal public benefits for U.S. nationals to be determined on an interim basis pending in-person presentation of documentation (e.g., presentation within 2-3 weeks).
The proposed rule sets a 60-day comment period, which will end October 5, 1998.
Action. SESA Administrators are requested to have appropriate staff review the proposed rule as set forth in the cited Federal Register. If the Federal Register is not available to your agency within the State, please contact your appropriate Regional Office for a copy. Written comments should be submitted in triplicate to:
Director, Policy Directives and Instructions Branch
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20536
Please submit a copy of your agency's written comments to the appropriate Regional Office at the time they are submitted to the DOJ/INS.
Inquiries. Inquiries should be directed to the appropriate Regional Office.