Offices for the Social Security Administration (SSA) have essentially remained closed to the public since March of 2020. This has led to many struggles; however, for employers, one of the most severe issues has been with resolving E-Verify Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs) caused by a failure to match an individual’s name with a Social Security number. In many cases, these cases have been left unresolved for longer than a year.
Now according to representatives from the SSA and the three unions representing much of the agency’s workforce, a plan is in the works to return 45,000 employees to work in these offices by March 30th, 2022. Many hope that this reopening may lead to an ability to resolve much of the long TNC backlog that has built up over the continuing pandemic.
Due to the pandemic, most of the SSA’s functions have been performed remotely since March 17th, 2020. This has considerably affected the SSA’s capacity to resolve TNCs on time and, in some cases, left employers and employees in limbo for more than a year.
Under E-Verify’s policies, employers are required to notify employees of a TNC within ten workdays, and if the employee chooses to contest a TNC, the employee has eight workdays in which to respond. This is often to the SSA, though in some cases, it may be to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instead. If the employee, SSA, or DHS finds that the employee was correct, the agency will correct its records and update the case in the E-Verify system. Previously the government would only take approximately two workdays to correct the records.
In response to delays early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, E-Verify relaxed the requirements for timeliness as government closures made it nearly impossible to resolve TNCs. However, these relaxed standards ended in November of 2020 as the majority of government agencies reopened and the regular deadlines were restored.
However, this has presented employers with many issues as, despite the regular timing rules, SSA offices were still closed at least partially due to union negotiations. This still left many employers unable to resolve TNCs despite efforts to contact the SSA. As a result, employers could face significant compliance issues as they are unable to resolve the issue or dismiss an employee who is contesting a TNC. Regardless, these employers could be subject to penalties for their failure to resolve a TNC case.
Now there is hope that if the SSA reopens its doors, the backlog of TNC cases could begin to resolve. However, it is important to keep in mind that this opening could be delayed once again if pandemic conditions take a turn for the worse or union negotiations turn sour.
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