J. Eldred Hill, Jr. Award 2021: Senator Phil Boots

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development is honored to nominate State Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) for the J. Eldred Hill, Jr. Award. Sen. Boots has been a valuable member of the Indiana General Assembly since 2006. In 2010, he was awarded the Small Business Champion Award by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Sen. Boots has been a key author and co-sponsor of Unemployment Insurance legislation throughout his time in the General Assembly and serves as the Chair of the Pensions and Labor Committee. In 2011, Sen. Boots was instrumental in passing reform legislation which helped modernize Indiana’s unemployment insurance program.

With his help, this modernization of the UI system in Indiana has led to the department receiving awards from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies and becoming an example for other state workforce agencies to follow. In these challenging times during the past 18 months of the pandemic, this modernization has enabled DWD to keep up with the demands of unprecedented numbers of claims processed through the state’s UI system, as well as the implementation of numerous new federal UI programs in a very short period of time.

Sen. Boots has long been a leader among legislators in the Indiana General Assembly. He has consistently supported key Unemployment Insurance legislation during his 15 years of service on behalf of Indiana’s working citizens and Hoosier employers.

UWC is pleased to be able to recognize Representative Boots.


UI Integrity Award 2021: Regina C. Ashley

Regina C. Ashley serves as the Indiana DWD Chief Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Solutions Officer. Gina is a recognized UI leader who does not shy away from difficult decisions or situations. In her current role with DWD, Gina oversees more than 1,000 full-time staff and contractors. She has successfully led this team during the most challenging pandemic circumstances over the past 18 months, which has included an unprecedented number of UI claims, the implementation of multiple federal programs, and an overall unusually difficult working circumstance. Throughout these challenging times, the DWD UI team led by Gina has paid out more than $9 million to nearly 900,000 claimants, both unprecedented numbers. And the vast majority (approximately 85 percent) were paid within 21 days after filing their initial claim. In addition, preventing fraud has been a top priority. Thanks to Gina and her team, hundreds of thousands of bot attempts have been thwarted, and millions of dollars have been saved.

During the pandemic Gina led the agency in implementing multiple new federal unemployment insurance programs; expanding the state UI system to process the new programs; increasing her division’s staff three-fold (including contractors); developing new policies around the new programs; instituting new internal data reporting to monitor daily work production; providing information to DWD and Governor’s Office leadership on the status of the UI Division routinely through the pandemic; ensuring communication to both internal and external constituents as much and as timely as possible; and routinely reminding UI Leadership to check in with the staff to ensure they felt supported and to thank them for all their efforts during the pandemic.  No one else could have led this state through these continuing unprecedented levels of workload, in a better, more supportive way. With every decision, Gina weighed the needs of claimants, compliance to the Department of Labor, as well as capacity of her staff.

We are honored to recognize Gina Ashley for her service with the UI Integrity Award.


UI Integrity Award 2020: Joshua Richardson

Josh Richardson serves as the Chief of Staff with the Department of Workforce Development. He returned to DWD in March of 2018, having previously served the agency in various capacities in the administrations of Governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence.

Josh served as a panelist at the National UI Issues Conference on the use of the Benefit Accuracy Measurement Survey in the determination of improper payment rates.

Most recently, Mr. Richardson worked for the National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ Integrity Center where he advised state agencies on various methods to reduce fraud and improper payments in their unemployment insurance systems. Previously, he served as the Director of Indiana’s Unemployment Insurance System, and in Governor Mitch Daniels’ administration as a Policy Director.

Mr. Richardson is regarded as the “go to” contact for employers and the broad range of stakeholders with the Indiana UI system and regarded as a national expert. His work has improved the integrity of UI in Indiana and contributed to the development of integrity measures across the country.

UWC is pleased to have the opportunity to recognize Josh Richardson.


 Outstanding Contribution Award 2020: Melissa Bird

Melissa L. Bird has provided outstanding contributions to UWC and the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation. It is remarkable to note that Melissa has served on the UWC Board for more than 16 years representing Qwest, CenturyLink and now Lumen. Melissa has been a steady and active UWC Board member. She has helped to shape UWC policy with respect to unemployment insurance through the great recession of 2008, years of economic recovery, and most recently in response to the Pandemic.

Melissa played a key role in the coordination of the annual national UI issues conference in Denver in 2012. She has also served on the Topics Task Force developing the conference agenda, and for many years volunteered to review nominations for recognition awards.

UWC is honored to recognize Melissa Bird with the Outstanding Contribution Award.


UI Integrity Award 2020: Senator John Gordner

Senator Gordner was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in Nov. 2003. Throughout much of his tenure, Senator Gordner has been the leader among Pennsylvania lawmakers protecting and ensuring the integrity of the unemployment compensation system. He embraced this responsibility during a historically tumultuous period for the system.

Pennsylvania’s UC system experienced significant strain during the Great Recession and early recovery period. In December of 2008, then-Gov. Ed Rendell convened a UC Advisory Board on which Senator Gordner served in his capacity as then-Chairman of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. Despite tremendous pressure, and often on an island among legislative appointees, Senator Gordner remained a stalwart advocate for pursuing a balanced approach that did not disproportionately burden employers.

In early 2011, Senator Gordner introduced legislation that would eventually become Act 6, which allowed Pennsylvanian claimants to remain eligible for federally-funded extended UC benefits, but also included important reforms sought by the employer community which collectively saved the UC Trust Fund over $100 million annually.

By mid-2012, Pennsylvania had borrowed nearly $4 billion from the federal government, the second largest UC debt in the country and greater than comparably-sized states with higher unemployment rates. Costs for employers were increasing by hundreds of millions and an even more precipitous financial cliff was fast approaching.

Senator Gordner’s years of working on UC public policy, establishing himself as the authority among his legislative colleagues, and cultivating relationships with a broad range of stakeholders would culminate in June 2012 with passage of Act 60 of 2012. This ambitious legislation, sponsored by Senator Gordner, included a range of cost-saving measures that put Pennsylvania’s trust fund on a path to solvency. It also authorized the Commonwealth to sell bonds in the private market to pay off the federal debt immediately – a fairly novel concept at the time, but a strategy that would avoid additional federal tax increases that were scheduled to go into effect.

On January 8, 2020, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Pennsylvania employers had paid off the bond in full and the additional tax being collected to service the bond was no longer being assessed as of Jan. 1. The careful stewardship of the Pennsylvania UI trust fund after the Great recession of 2008-2009 and the measures taken with the leadership of Senator Gordner put Pennsylvania in a much better position to respond to the pandemic recession of 2020.

UWC is pleased to be able to recognize Pennsylvania Senator John Gordner.