Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bad Day at the (Unemployment) Office

Unemployment is complicated. Staying organized, creating structure to your days, and getting things done to ensure you land well takes focus and commitment. It also takes good information management skills- you  have to deal with a lot of information relating to severance, unemployment compensation, and your benefits. If the information you receive isn't well designed, i.e. with the main points and your required actions clearly highlighted, you will make mistakes and possibly lose benefits.

I missed the first biweekly claim deadline for my unemployment benefits. That's a $1000+ mistake. I received several letters from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry- my Claim Confirmation (I opened an unemployment claim), my determination of benefits (I am eligible to receive unemployment benefits), an unemployment handbook, my debit card (the state pays via debit card), and a PIN number to access my online account. The note about the deadline to file my first biweekly claim was buried in the Claim Confirmation letter, which I received before my benefits were even determined.

So I missed the deadline. I didn't read every word of each piece of mail. The most important information wasn't highlighted and I didn't see it. I can rail about poor information design, how the critical information was buried in a stack of mail, and how the point of unemployment compensation should be to help those who have been laid off, not make it hard to get the money owed them.

Maybe the state needs someone like me to make it easy for people to get the information they need to act.

Regardless, I'm the one who didn't recognize what I had to do and I'm the one who missed out on $1000. That's an expensive lesson to learn and I take responsibility for my error. Just because the information is poorly designed or hidden in plain sight, doesn't mean I relinquish my responsibility to read and understand it. Especially when the outcome will hit me in my wallet (or debit card).

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