WASHINGTON – Throughout the pandemic, disparities in access to benefits affected women, communities of color and other marginalized workers at a higher rate and often delayed delivery of much needed financial support and services. These disparities in access to unemployment insurance exposed serious real-world shortcomings in the outdated systems used to deliver state and territories unemployment insurance benefits.
With funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced the initial award of more than $20 million in grant funding to help promote equitable access to state unemployment insurance systems in the Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, by improving public awareness and service delivery. The department seeks to address disparities in the administration and delivery of UI benefits by race, ethnicity, language proficiency and disability status, among other groups.
“We are working closely with states to improve the delivery of benefits and services to America’s workers and job seekers. These grants are the first of their kind to advance equity in state unemployment insurance programs,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Throughout the pandemic, the unemployment insurance system provided a critical lifeline for millions of workers, yet far too many workers struggled to access benefits quickly. To become a more robust safety net and economic stabilizer, our unemployment insurance system must serve all workers fairly and equitably.”
On Aug. 17, 2021, the department’s Employment and Training Administration issued guidance to inform states of $260 million available in grants for activities that promote equitable access to Unemployment Compensation programs, which include eliminating administrative barriers to benefit application, reducing state workload backlogs, improving the timeliness of UC payments to eligible individuals and ensuring equity in fraud prevention, detection and recovery activities.
The initial round of UI equity grant recipients are as follows:
District of Columbia
Initial Round Total
Recipients may use grant funds to support innovative strategies and solutions to promote equitable access to UC programs. This includes funding that will increase public awareness of the program so more people apply, improve service delivery so claimants receive their first benefits in a timely manner and develop a better understanding of the equity challenges that need to be addressed. In addition, they may use a portion of their grant funds for evaluations of their grant activities to determine their effectiveness.