The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has received a $3 million federal grant to help the Unemployment Compensation system by partnering with community-based organizations that work with underserved Pennsylvanians.
Pennsylvania is one of seven states to receive a Navigator grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
“The UC system is a safety net for workers experiencing unemployment through no fault of their own, and it should be accessible to every Pennsylvania worker. My administration remains committed to eliminating barriers faced by historically marginalized communities and ensuring all eligible workers, regardless of background, receive the support they need to overcome economic hardship,” Governor Wolf said. “This funding and partnership with community-based organizations will bring us closer to true equity in access to Pennsylvania’s UC system.”
This is the second time in recent months that the Wolf Administration has secured federal funding to promote equitable access to Pennsylvania’s UC system. Governor Wolf announced in March that L&I had been awarded $6.8 million from the DOL for projects aimed at promoting equitable access to the UC program. More than $3.5 million of the awarded funds are being used to offer in-person services for UC claimants available by appointment at PA CareerLink® locations throughout the commonwealth. L&I began rolling out those services in May and continues to add CareerLink® locations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic – during which L&I distributed about $48.5 billion in UC benefits to Pennsylvanians – exacerbated some barriers to access and exposed others. L&I has a longstanding commitment to engagement with community-based organizations that assist and advocate for Pennsylvania workers, and we intend to use the Navigator grant to work even more closely with our partners,” L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said.
L&I plans to use the most recent federal grant to improve access to the UC system among specific groups of underserved Pennsylvanians, including:
- Workers with limited English proficiency in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh;
- Workers in low-income communities with limited access to technology;
- Individuals with intellectual disabilities.
In the coming weeks, L&I will issue a Notice of Grant Availability to solicit applications from community-based organizations interested in the partnership opportunity. Selected organizations will be trained by L&I staff on various aspects of the UC system, including initial applications, weekly certifications, appeals, and identity verification.
L&I will also work with the community-based organizations to develop printed and web-based materials that will be translated into various languages and designed to address common questions and concerns from marginalized communities.