Labor and community organizations should be involved in helping unemployed workers access unemployment insurance benefits through public education and individualized support. State agencies should be encouraged to partner with and fund labor and community membership-based organizations that are rooted in communities and populations least likely to access UI. Engaging these organizations provides value that can't be achieved just by improving internal program systems and processes.
We know that these support services work: Labor unions already help their members to access unemployment benefits. Merely belonging to a union makes workers twenty percentage points more likely to apply for, and receive, benefits than similar non-unionized workers who lose employment. Support from trusted organizations can overcome racial and socioeconomic disparities in UI access: unionized workers are the only group that apply for and receive benefits at roughly equal rates regardless of race and educational attainment. A supported network of trained navigators based in community and labor organizations with pre-existing ties to historically underserved communities can connect the most economically vulnerable unemployed workers with the benefits they need to survive, in particular by increasing awareness of UI and supporting workers who face technological, language, or administrative barriers.