States that have been overwhelmed by requests for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic will now get economic assistance from the federal government in the form of grants to improve the delivery of benefits.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Feb. 1 that it will use funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide up to $15 million in grants to states and territories — the funds being allocated to help address disparities in state unemployment insurance (UI) programs. The aim is to strengthen UI systems by helping those who have lost their jobs to better understand the application process for claiming and receiving benefits and related services.
A special emphasis will be placed on helping women, communities of color and other marginalized workers who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and have often faced delays in getting needed financial support and services.
The Labor Department will award the grants — called American Rescue Plan Act UI Navigator grants — to individual states, which will then partner with community-based organizations to deliver outreach, training, education and general assistance with completing unemployment benefit applications. Community-based organizations include labor unions and similar groups that represent workers, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit groups. States also are encouraged to partner with American Indian/Native American tribal governments.
Up to $3 million in funding will be provided to each state that is selected. States can apply for the grants through March 31, 2022.
Unemployment claims have been on the rise in recent weeks, largely due to a bigger-than-expected impact resulting from the spread of the omicron variant. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, jobless claims in the week ending Jan. 15 shot up by 55,000 from the previous week to 286,000. That was the highest rate since October and came in well above Dow Jones’ estimate of 225,000 claims.
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