Where Are the Labor Department's Reemployment Funds Going?
Thirty-seven states and Washington, D.C., have opted to take part in the national reemployment grant program, the U.S. Department of Labor announced on June 20. A total of $48.7 million in funding will be distributed to the participating governments "to implement re-employment and eligibility assessments for beneficiaries of unemployment insurance." But not all of it goes directly to the unemployed, and some see that as undercutting the effort.
The grants are based on requests made by each state, with New York slated to receive the most at $8.3 million. The funds derive from the department's 2011 budget, which was submitted at a request of $13.98 billion in total discretionary authority, part of which is used to pay the salaries of the department's 17,800 employees.
In announcing the distribution to the states,of Labor Hilda Solis highlighted two uses of the funds.
"These grants are part of the Labor Department's commitment to help America get back to work by ensuring that unemployment insurance beneficiaries have access to the individualized tools they need to land their next jobs," she said. "At the same time, these eligibility reviews enhance the integrity of unemployment insurance payments, resulting in a system that works better for both job seekers and the employers that help pay for benefits."
In addition to providing money for the widely praised direct personal service that prepares the unemployed to reenter the workforce (as opposed to an online automated system), grants are used to ensure that the funds are not misused. However, lumping the cost of such compliance (referred to as "integrity" by the department) with the effort to actually find jobs for the unemployed irks some worker advocates.
"In today's economy, workers need all the help they can get finding jobs, but we take issue with diverting these funds for other purposes that undermine the basic purpose of the program," said Maurice Emsellem, the policy co-director for the D.C.-based National Employment Law Project, via email.
For its part, the Labor Department confirms that the way in which the funds are broken down is a decision made at the state level. Moreover, the department doesn't even make available each state's breakdown, according to Labor Department spokesman David Roberts in an interview with AOL Jobs.
Stories from CNN Money