Capital Clicks

Iowa Workforce Development receives $2.9 million in federal funding

By: - September 1, 2022 2:27 pm

A dispute involving a Des Moines roofing company illustrates how companies can avoid tax liabilities by denying workers benefits that are traditionally afforded employees. (Photo by Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Iowa Workforce Development a $2.9 million grant to help the state improve its unemployment benefits system.

The American Rescue Plan Act provided $26 million in total grant funding to Iowa, California, Michigan, Nevada and West Virginia to help the states improve their unemployment insurance programs. The goal of the grant program is to “remove barriers related to race, age, ethnicity, language proficiency, disability status, geographic location or other systemic issues” for workers seeking unemployment insurance, according to a Department of Labor news release.

Iowa plans to use the money to help update the IWD phone system, process the backlog of COVID-related claims and create new materials on navigating the unemployment insurance system. The money will also go toward correcting cases in which workers had been misclassified in the claims system — an issue that came up repeatedly for people filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, according to the IWD news release.

“We are continually looking for ways we can provide better service to Iowans,” Beth Townsend, IWD director said in the news release. “This award will help us make unique enhancements to improve the way we deliver unemployment benefits and will increase the viability of core agency services over the long term.”

The state is still facing a large backlog of unemployment benefits and insurance claims from the COVID-19 pandemic, which put many Iowans out of work over the past two years. These new funds will help IWD address outstanding claims, according to the news release, as well as make unemployment payments quicker.

Iowa has received multiple 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 School Safety Bureau earlier this summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also allotted American Rescue Plan money to help struggling and starting farmers.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.