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Can Universal Digital Licenses Help Your State Thrive?

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Advocates for reciprocal licenses shared compelling data in a hearing before the Nebraska's legislative Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee in October 2021. With millions of professionals displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, universal licensing is a hot workforce topic for policymakers. If related legislation passes, the Cornhusker State will join the growing list of those easing regulatory burdens on workers and helping them avoid costly employment delays. 

Nebraska is no stranger to this concept, having passed an Occupational Board Reform Act in 2018. But, like many legislators looking to jump-start their state's anemic economies, the committee members wanted to hear evidence that streamlining credential recognition could accelerate recovery.

At Merit, we are passionate about workforce development, and last year we partnered with Laffer Associates to determine how working families and government budgets could benefit from digital universally recognized licenses.

We learned that filling a position takes an average of 42 days and costs employers an average of $4,000. Without universal licensing, workers lose credentials when they move to a new state, which means delaying the time an employer could have hired this licensed worker. That time expands while professionals gather required training or education components for permission to do what they had been doing, sometimes across the street in another state.

How much could digital licenses save the economy?

If reciprocal digital licenses are adopted, the estimated national savings is almost 500 billion dollars. That's an enormous number and worth restating. Getting licensed workers quickly matched with jobs for which they qualify equates to half $1 trillion in earned wages, revenue, and reduced need for states to pay unemployment benefits. 

Licensed professionals will be more likely to move their families to a state where they know there is no need to undergo a lengthy process to acquire credentials similar to those already held. States with reciprocal licensing see a massive competitive advantage by attracting skilled workers.

Licensing silos significantly impact our military and veteran families. Nearly 10% of full-time Merit employees are veterans. They've shared how hard it was every time the family moved to a new state and their spouse had to apply for a new license. An in-house research study reported 47.9% of 500 military veterans polled had to be re-credentialed at least once to work in the state to which they moved. For families already living on tight budgets, the loss of income from this delay is an unnecessary hardship we can quickly remedy.

Does the technology for universal licenses exist?

Why would policymakers withhold support for beneficial legislation? This is not uncommon if there are legitimate concerns about cost and implementation. In this case, they may doubt that it is possible to issue secure, verifiable, portable occupational licenses to every professional in their state and those who wish to move there. 

We know that it is possible because we have done it already. Merit partnered with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) to securely integrate with their existing systems and convert over 200,000 paper-based occupational licenses into verified, digital credentials. There are now 114 license types across 40 professions that are verifiable for employment on a mobile device.

VA DPOR issues credentials to the qualified professional, who then accepts and stores them in a digital app. It now takes 24 hours after the application has been submitted. Some licensees received their credentials weeks before their plastic card came in the mail -- Allowing them to begin work sooner. In Virginia, as elsewhere, Merit fully complied with stringent federal security requirements for systems and applications handling private information. The agency remotely manages these official licenses through disciplinary actions such as suspensions, revocations, and complaints. Digital licenses are portable and promote rapid, contactless verification for employment. They support public health, particularly as we move through the COVID-19 crisis.

Because Merit can integrate siloed and legacy systems, the state did not need to purchase new technology, further realizing savings.

Digital universal licenses accelerate professional and economic recovery

Digital reciprocal licenses will accelerate economic recovery for working families and communities, especially our men and women in the armed forces. States that join Arizona, Pennsylvania, Montana, Utah, New Jersey, Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri in adopting broad licensing reciprocity may contribute to massive national economic savings. They will be the places where struggling professionals move to get back to work. 

Read how Virginia offers digital licenses to all professionals


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