Unemployment Insurance Equity Grant Open Call

November 1, 2021 – Grant Opportunity

Unemployment insurance proved a critical lifeline for millions of people who were suddenly laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the system has been underinvested in for years and many workers faced tremendous barriers to proving their eligibility or accessing timely payments. Evidence suggests that this likely fell hardest on people who were already in precarious job arrangements prior to the pandemic and/or are women and people of color.

With $2 billion in American Rescue Plan funding committed to unemployment insurance (UI) and the experience of soaring unemployment levels in 2020 still fresh in our minds, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve UI delivery at the state level. Equity is one critical area for improvement, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced $260 million in funding for states to ensure equitable access to and timely payment of UI benefits. This federal funding will be awarded to states to, for example, improve claimant outreach and customer service processes, implement strategies to reduce backlog, and improve access for claimants who earn especially low incomes.

Purpose of Families and Workers Fund Grant Opportunity
As states work to improve equity in the delivery of UI benefits, state-based nonprofit and community organizations could potentially play a critical role in synthesizing and sharing the experiences key population groups had when accessing (or trying to access) UI benefits. The Families and Workers Fund is offering one-time grants to state and local nonprofit and community-based organizations that would like to support their state government’s efforts to build a more equitable UI system.

Grants may be used for a range of purposes to help advance equity in the unemployment insurance system, from compiling existing findings and recommendations to share with your state government to convening key partners around UI equity. Grants will range between $25,000 and $100,000 depending on the extensiveness of proposed activities. Project budgets can include staffing and other costs related to the work. Funds cannot be used to engage in any lobbying not permitted by IRS Section 501(c)(3).

Eligibility
These one-time grants are designed to support nonprofit partners who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or fiscally sponsored project based in the U.S.
  • Pre-existing, long-term work directly with people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19, especially those who may have faced some of the biggest challenges in navigating the UI system — for example, people who are Black, Indigenous or other People of Color (BIPOC); immigrants; people earning a living in the gig or domestic sectors; and more.
  • Already maintain an effective, working relationship with state government UI leaders.
  • Able to mobilize quickly to share with state agency staff the challenges and solutions lifted up by those who were most directly impacted by challenges with UI delivery.

Please do not apply if:

  • Your organization is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or fiscally sponsored project.
  • Your organization is not based in the U.S.
  • You do not already have relationships with workers who were most directly impacted by challenges with UI delivery.
  • You do not have extensive knowledge of the issues faced by workers who were most directly impacted by challenges with UI delivery.
  • You do not already have a working relationship with the state agency responsible for UI.
  • You do not have the capacity to mobilize quickly to share challenges and solutions lifted up by directly-impacted workers with state government UI leaders.

If you are not eligible for this particular funding opportunity, the Families and Workers Fund will have other funding opportunities in the future. Feel free to email us to introduce yourself and your work at info@familiesandworkers.org

To Apply
Interested applicants who meet the eligibility criteria listed above should submit a 3-5 page concept note, which will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until December 17, 2021. We will not be able to review applications that are more than 5 pages or that arrive after December 17, 2021.

There is no required format or structure for concept notes, but please be sure to include answers to these questions:

  1. What is the name of your organization and where is it headquartered?
  2. What is your organization’s involvement with work focused on issues of unemployment and unemployment insurance, and how has that work been informed by people who face the biggest challenges in navigating the UI system?
  3. Do you already have a sense of the major challenges and solutions needed to improve UI equity in your state? If so, please describe them in brief and how they were informed by workers most impacted by those challenges.
  4. What is the nature of your working relationship with the state agency responsible for UI? If you have any formal relationship with the agency, please note that in your response (e.g., you have received grant funding, have a MOU in place, or similar).
  5. How do you plan to use the grant (i.e., overview of the specific activities, outcomes, and approach)?
  6. How much in grant funding are you requesting for this work?

Questions about this opportunity? Email tyonka@familiesandworkers.org

Frequently Asked Questions 
Can I apply if I’m not a 501(c)(3) organization?
The Fund primarily supports 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or fiscally sponsored projects based in the U.S. For this call, applicants with other structures will not be considered because it takes several weeks longer to review and process those applications and this work is moving on an expedited timeline.

How will applications be assessed?
Applications will be reviewed by the Families and Workers Fund staff and Advisory Board. We are looking for proposals from organizations that meet the eligibility criteria and effectively address the questions listed above.

Can I apply for Recover Up funding?
At this time, the Fund does not have plans to run another open call on Recover Up. However, we do encourage you to stay in touch with the Families and Workers Fund by signing up for our email listserv on www.familiesandworkers.org.

What are the financial/budgetary restrictions for this grant?
Grants will range between $25,000 and $100,000 depending on the extensiveness of proposed activities. In general, the Fund aims to provide general operating grants. Project budgets can include staffing and other costs related to the work. Funds cannot be used to engage in any lobbying not permitted by IRS Section 501(c)(3).

Can one organization submit multiple applications?
If an organization is the primary applicant, and therefore receiver of grant funding, if selected, then it can only submit one application. However, an organization can join multiple other applications as a secondary applicant or partner.