Iowa’s unemployment services get an upgrade with US bailout grants

Iowa’s unemployment services get an upgrade with US bailout grants
Iowa’s unemployment services get an upgrade with US bailout grants

President Joe Biden speaks during an event to celebrate labor unions, in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Iowa is one of five states that will receive new funding to upgrade software, reduce backlogs, identify fraud and increase training at their state employment offices, through a series of grants awarded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) will receive $2,937,757 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration in the form of “equity grants.”

The grants are designed to “implement projects that seek to remove barriers related to race, age, ethnicity, language proficiency, disability status, geographic location or other systemic issues and allow those in need to access unemployment insurance benefits,” according to USDOL.

Specifically, the money is meant to “support projects that promote awareness, simplify instruction, provide translation services, improve technology, increase staffing and meet other specific needs of disadvantaged communities,” according to the federal government. .

In a Thursday statement announcing the funding, Iowa Workforce Development said it would use the money for the following:

  • More options and features for IWD’s Phone System, “including call transcription and analysis;”
  • Dealing with a “COVID backlog” of claims;
  • Identify workers ‘who are misclassified under the law’ after employees noticed a ‘number of people who applied for special pandemic unemployment assistance, but were not previously working as covered employees » ;
  • Update public documents, including videos, and add translations of certain documents into other languages;
  • Added employee training “to increase awareness of diverse populations and audiences.”

The languages ​​to be translated and the material and training to be added were not specified in the press release. An IWD spokesperson told Starting Line that part of the funding will be used to assess which documents need to be translated into which languages.

“Iowa Workforce Development is grateful to receive this award, which will help our agency make targeted improvements in several areas,” said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “This award will help us make unique enhancements to improve the way we deliver unemployment benefits and increase the sustainability of the agency’s core services over the long term.”

The federal government made $260 million in grants, awarded through ARPA, available to states for unemployment equity in August 2021. So far, it has awarded $133 million. dollars to 25 states and the District of Columbia.

ARPA was not supported by Republicans representing Iowa, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Representatives Ashley Hinson, Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Only Iowa’s only Democratic representative, Cindy Axne, voted for the bill.

Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds also did not support ARPA, but often touted the money coming from it in Iowa. Usually press releases from the state agencies receiving the money only include this information at the very bottom, or – in the case of this week’s IWD release – are not mentioned at all unless a user click on a link “for more information”.

By Amie Rivers

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. Iowas unemployment services upgrade bailout grants

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