The US Department of Labor awarded Iowa Workforce Development a $2.9 million grant to help the state improve its unemployment compensation system.
The American Rescue Plan Act provided $26 million in total grants to Iowa, California, Michigan, Nevada and West Virginia to help states improve their unemployment insurance programs. The goal of the grant program is to “remove barriers related to race, age, ethnicity, language skills, disability status, geographic location, or other systemic issues for workers applying for unemployment insurance, according to a Department of Labor press release.
Iowa plans to use the money to help update the IWD phone system, process the backlog of COVID-related claims and create new documents about navigating the unemployment insurance system. The money will also be used to correct cases in which workers had been misclassified in the claims system – an issue that has come up repeatedly for people applying for pandemic unemployment assistance, the statement said. release of the IWD.
“We are continually looking for ways to provide better service to the people of Iowa,” said Beth Townsend, director of IWD in the press release. “This award will help us make unique enhancements to improve the way we pay unemployment benefits and increase the sustainability of core agency services over the long term.”
The state still faces a large backlog of unemployment benefits and insurance claims from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put many Iowans out of work for the past two years. These new funds will help IWD process outstanding claims, according to the press release, as well as expedite unemployment payments.
Iowa received several federal grants through the American Rescue Plan Act this year. In addition to the IWD grant, the state used $100 million from the act to create the Office of School Safety earlier this summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also allocated funds to the U.S. bailout to help struggling and beginning farmers.