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WSLC, Drivers Union to partner with ESD on UI assistance program

Unemployment Insurance Navigator Program will help claimants across diverse communities


OLYMPIA (Dec. 19, 2023) — In a significant move to bolster support for individuals navigating the unemployment insurance claims process, the Employment Security Department has announced organizations — including the Drivers Union/IBT 117 and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO — that will receive grant money to participate in the agency’s Unemployment Insurance Navigator Program. The funding, provided for in the American Rescue Plan Act approved by President Biden and Congress in 2021, aims to promote comprehensive guidance and assistance to claimants.

“The selection of the Washington State Labor Council and Drivers Union as key sub-awardees in this program underscores the crucial role of representative organizations,” said Kairie Pierce, the WSLC’s Lead Workforce Development Director. “Both have a lot of experience in aiding claimants across diverse communities in every part of the state.”

ESD sought contractors from the program with a proven track record in handling UI claims, including a focus on empowering potential claimants by offering tailored guidance and assistance throughout the claims process. The selection process also prioritized vendors in specific geographic regions to help ensure a nuanced, community-specific approach that can cater to the specific needs of various cultural and community groups. By partnering with these organizations, the program aims to bridge potential language and cultural barriers encountered by claimants during the UI claims process.

This partnership between ESD and the chosen organizations is expected to significantly enhance the overall experience for claimants, equipping them with the necessary tools and resources to navigate the UI process more effectively.

The Drivers Union released the following statement:

“For nearly three years, Drivers Union has been working hand in hand with UBER and LYFT drivers to ensure that they’re supported in applying for unemployment insurance when they face life’s most challenging moments. Over the course of the COVID pandemic, we worked with more than 5,000 drivers to get them access to unemployment, navigate the complex and unfamiliar application and claims process, and deal with common challenges, such as overpayment letters, when they arose.

“To ensure that drivers have access to same rights as most other workers in the state, we collaborated with our legislative partners to enshrine drivers’ right to unemployment insurance in state law. We’re now proud to partner with the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) as UI Navigators to ensure that even the most difficult to reach populations are able to access their rights.

“Most drivers in Washington don’t speak English as a first language, and many have limited access to internet beyond their mobile phones. We’re proud to work with a team, many of whom are drivers themselves, that reflects the driver population and speaks 14 of the languages most common among the driver community.

“We recognize and appreciate ESD for their awareness of the need to create a more inclusive UI process. With that in mind, we look forward to continuing our work to ensure that drivers rights are fully realizable by every driver, both through direct driver support and outreach, and ongoing consultation with ESD to help refine the application and claims system to improve access for all Washingtonians.”

As UI Navigators, these organizations will:

  • Receive training focused on the initial stages of the customer journey. This training will ensure Navigators understand how the process of applying for and receiving UI benefits works.
  • Meet regularly with ESD (virtual or in-person) to share best practices and review emergent challenges.
  • Provide ongoing feedback and suggestions on how ESD can improve its services and help ensure these benefits are available and accessible for everyone.
  • Conduct targeted outreach, education and support activities communities who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. This may include promoting awareness of other social safety net programs.

PREVIOUSLY at The STANDWSLC, ESD offer Unemployment Insurance trainings Dec. 19-20 — The Workforce Development Department of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is partnering with state Employment Security Department to offer two online UI trainings for union leaders, rank-and-file members, and all others interested in learning how to access this critical safety net for Washington workers.The trainings will be held TODAY (Tuesday, Dec. 19) from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Dec. 20 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Register now and you will receive a link and instructions for joining the trainings.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!