The Labor Department is launching a new program to better understand and fix gaps in unemployment insurance (UI) system access by tapping into state data to get better insights into UI system service problems.

The pilot utilizes disaggregated state data to get better insight into barriers to the equitable access of UI systems – specifically, who is getting shut out of unemployment benefits. The Labor Department explained that this data can help program administrators ensure they help everyone who is entitled to the benefits to successfully access them.

“Despite its important relief and stimulative effects, UI’s reach across jobless workers remains uneven,” the department stated in its recently released equity action plan.

“The overall picture is that the current system of UI – both before and during the pandemic – provides unequal access to benefits for marginalized communities, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-paid and part-time workers, workers with limited English proficiency, and workers with lower levels of formal education,” the agency said.

For example, prior to the pandemic, unemployed Black workers were 21 percent less likely to receive benefits than white workers. The education gap was even larger: 30 percent of jobless workers with at least a college degree reported receiving benefits in 2018, compared to just 11 percent of workers with less than a high school degree.

The Federal-state UI system fails to fulfill its objectives when large numbers of workers cannot access adequate benefits. And in light of these equity gaps, the Labor Department said it has engaged in a comprehensive effort to improve timely access to benefits for all eligible workers.

“Advancing equity requires data to assess the needs of underserved populations, the scope of existing programs, and the impacts of potential interventions,” the Labor Department said.

Read More About
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.