NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions is reinstating the requirement for people to be actively searching for jobs in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. However, what is the state doing to actually verify if someone is looking for a job?

The requirement has been waived since March 2020. Businesses said hiring has been a challenge, and they hope this helps. “We need managers you know, cooks, dishwashers, waitresses, hostesses, cashiers, so we need a little bit of everybody. We have limited hours right now because of this. We’ve had to close some of our days and limit some of our hours on some of the other days,” Dan Garica, owner of Garcia’s Kitchen said. “A lot of them are coming in and say they want to work and then they don’t show up for the interview or they show up to the interview and they don’t show up to work. And then some of them do, you know, the ones that really want to work.”

With the work-search requirement, people claiming unemployment will need to make and document at least two work contacts every week to qualify for benefits. They must document the date of your contact, the type of work it was, the employer’s name, the person, or website address, the type of contact and contact information (such as a phone number or web address), and what was the result of your contact. 

How is this being enforced?

KRQE News 13 asked the Department of Workforce Solutions for an interview multiple times Tuesday morning but didn’t go on camera. KRQE then sent an email asking the department how its employees are making sure people are actually looking for a job and not just plugging in an employer’s information. KRQE also asked what the ratio is of claim investigators to claimants. That was around noon on Tuesday and KRQE did not hear back as of 5 p.m.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce said this could be a concern but the reinstatement is a great first step to getting New Mexicans back to work. “I think there is some concern that could you know, that could happen,” Scott Darnell, with the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce said. “We’re optimistic that requiring those still on unemployment insurance to actively look for work will lead to more offers being made and positions being filled.”

Darnell said the reinstatement is ‘welcome news.’ “It is a staple of the unemployment insurance program for good reason. We should encourage work in this country and the goal should always be that somebody goes on to unemployment insurance for a short period of time to help them as they’re looking for work,” Darnell said.

In an email over the weekend, NMDWS explained why it’s lifting the waiver now. “As the Governor announced recently, the state has made notable progress in minimizing COVID-19 spread and at the same time has done a great job rolling out its vaccination plan. As a result, more employers may now increase their reopening efforts, including bringing more staff back to work. Removing the waiver is timely given New Mexico’s timeline to fully reopen,” a spokesperson with the department said.

As of May 7, 2021, about 81,000 claimants were receiving benefit payments.