On August 17, 2021, the US DOL ETA released UI PL 23-21 detailing the availability of up to $260 million in funding for activities that promote equitable access to UC 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. See UIPL_23-21.pdf

The range of options provided should enable states to work with stakeholders to identify needs unique to each state and to assist UI applicants in understanding the UI system and how to apply for unemployment compensation and file weekly claims for benefits.

The grant application must be submitted by the close of business on October 18, 2021.  US DOL determined the amount available for each state’s grant based on the state’s covered employment for calendar year 2020. ARPA sets out the allowable uses of these funds, including to make grants to states or territories administering unemployment compensation (UC) programs for such purposes.

Promoting Program Equity. On January 20, 2021, the President issued Executive Order (EO) 13985 concerning advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities. This EO articulates the importance of advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. This includes addressing disparities in accessing government programs facing individuals and communities including, but not limited to, low wage workers, Black and Hispanic/Latinx workers, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with limited English proficiency, women, and individuals living in rural areas.

Amount Available to States. The Department is providing up to $260 million to states to promote equitable access to UC programs. The methodology for state funding levels is based on state size. For purposes of this methodology, states are assigned to four groups (Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large) based on the 12-month average of UC covered employment for the four quarters in calendar year 2020 reported on the ES 202 (Employment, Wages and Contributions). Strategies to fund include:

1) improve public awareness of the program so more people/ apply;

2) improve service delivery so people have a better experience and receive their first benefit payments sooner and continue to receive benefits as long as they are eligible; and

3) develop a better understanding of the equity challenges that need to be addressed.

Permissible uses of these funds include, but are not limited to, the following activities.

  • Improve Claimant Communications.
  • Improve Claimant Outreach.
  • Measure Delivery of Benefits and Claimant Experience
  • Improve Customer Service.
  • Reduce Backlogs.
  • Facilitate Establishment of Entitlement to Benefits

States may take action to reduce false positives in fraud detection efforts, which includes identity verification activities.

  • Business Process Analysis (BPA) for Equity.
  • BPA for First Payment and/or First Level Appeals Promptness.
  • Expanding and Improving Collection of Demographic Data.
  • Hiring Merit Staff and/or Securing Contract Support.
  • Increased Recipiency Rate for Individuals with Barriers to Access.
  • Improved Timeliness of Issuing First Payments and/or Resolving Nonmonetary Determinations.
  • Improved Fraud-Related Activity Accuracy.
  • Improved Nonmonetary Adjudication Quality