MADISON – Comprehensive customer service and technology improvement efforts already underway at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development will get a major boost thanks to a $6.84 million Equity Grant awarded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).
The grant is designated to promote equitable access to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system. The grant will be invaluable as UI modernizes its legacy system to ensure that individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) have a meaningful connection with UI and reemployment services.
“The UI program is a vital safety net for unemployed workers and ensuring access to the program is a long-standing priority of the department,” DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. “Equity within the unemployment insurance program is essential to ensuring that eligible workers receive payment in a timely and fair manner, based on an application process that is readily accessible to all. This is and will remain a priority across all DWD programs and services.”
The grant will allow the UI Division to enhance its current efforts to ensure that more information is available in Spanish. In addition, the grant will provide funds to translate UI information into other languages that may be spoken by Wisconsin claimants, including Spanish, Hmong, Mandarin, Somali, German, and language families spoken by Native American Tribes in Wisconsin. Language translation will be prioritized based on the percentage of LEP claimants in Wisconsin that report that language as their primary language. The grant also provides funding to enhance DWD’s ability to collect demographic data of claimants to better target future services.
A portion of funds will be dedicated to the expansion of current efforts to combat worker misclassification. Worker misclassification is the unlawful practice of labeling employees as independent contractors. Employers who intentionally misclassify workers typically do so to avoid paying taxes and benefits; the practice disproportionately affects underrepresented communities.
The grant also provides funding for the DWD’s Division of Employment and Training to collaborate with the Midwest Data Collaborative and the University of Wisconsin – Madison Institute for Research on Poverty to design data tools that are more responsive, lead to actionable information for policy and local service delivery providers, and measure equity of services and reemployment outcomes.