The Department of Labor (DoL) has announced up to $15 million in grants to states and territories to ensure that Americans eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) can apply and receive their benefits.

The UI Navigator Program is intended to help states mitigate any disparities in access to benefits and strengthen state UI systems by educating workers on how to apply for unemployment compensation.

The latest series of grants available to states focuses primarily on improving access to the benefit by partnering with community-based organizations for education about UI. In addition, states will also have to use the funding to provide general assistance with completing applications for unemployment benefits. Community-based organizations include labor unions or other entities representing workers, colleges or other institutions of higher education, and other nonprofit groups. States are also encouraged to partner with tribal governments.

The funding will help states deliver benefits to workers, “especially individuals in groups that are historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality,” DoL noted in an announcement.

The grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March 2021. To manage the $2 billion of total funding dedicated to UI in the American Rescue Plan Act, the Labor Department established a UI-focused office.

The latest funding opportunity for states is the most recent step in DoL’s continuing effort to improve access and integrity of the nation’s unemployment insurance program. On Aug. 11, 2021, the department announced plans to help modernize the UI system to combat fraud and address equity. DoL continued this effort by creating the Office of UI Modernization to oversee the use of the fund from the American Rescue Plan Act. And later, on Sept. 30, the department announced about $196 million in funding to detect and combat UI fraud.

For the most recent funding round, the department will award up to $3 million in funding to each state selected. States may apply for grants through March 31, 2022.

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