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District of Columbia Awarded $2.28M U.S. Department of Labor Grant to Improve Unemployment Insurance System and Equity Access to DC Workers

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes, director of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES) announced that the District has been awarded a $2.28 million United States Department of Labor (USDOL) grant to improve the unemployment insurance system and enhance equity in access to benefits and service delivery for DC workers. DOES is responsible for administering unemployment benefits within the District.
“Our agency has been focused on addressing equity and improving the District’s unemployment insurance system and this grant award will further our effort to improve our system, enhance language access for all claimants, and better assist District workers in their ability to support themselves and their families,” said DOES Director Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes. “Mayor Bowser’s investments in District workers, and funding from those encouraged by DC’s progress under her leadership, continue to spur job growth and ensure the District is competitive in attracting new, high-growth companies and talent to support DC’s strong economic recovery.”
In August, President Joe Biden and USDOL Secretary Martin J. Walsh made available $260 million for activities that promote equitable access to unemployment compensation programs, and the District of Columbia was one of the first named recipients of the funding. Through funding identified in the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, the grant provides equitable access and support toward economy recovery for Americans hit hardest by the effects of the global pandemic.
The District will use the grant funding to improve the unemployment system and address inequities faced by DC workers. Funding may also be used to incorporate human centered design into program operations. This focus will enable the Department to focus on making the user experience for the entire UI system more navigable for all claimants to meet their unique needs. The Department will also examine how business processes can be more equitable, removing unnecessary or duplicative hurdles currently faced by claimants.
Additional federal resources will enable the department to improve claimant communications, outreach, and improve customer service. Special focus will be given to meeting readability and language needs of claimants, as well as working to reach communities that experience barriers to online access, bridging the “digital divide”.