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Department of Labor looks to the future after COVID-19

Delaware Department of Labor

The Delaware Department of Labor answered to state lawmakers on the state of unemployment benefits and its budget requests this year.


The Department of Labor has taken on an outsized role over the past year managing the deluge of unemployment claims received since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.


The department updated the Joint Finance Committee on where things stand. Unemployment division director Darryl Scott says the biggest issue now is claim appeals.


“As [Labor Secretary Karryl] Hubbard indicated, we’ve got more than 12,000 claims adjudication and that’s one of the more lengthy processes that we have to manage and that’s where we determine entitlement to the benefits," he said.


Scott says many staff members working in other parts of the department have shifted to dealing with appeals to work through the backlog. 


Currently there’s a 90 day turnover on appeals, which Scott wants reduced since people are waiting on benefits during that time.


The department is asking for an over 7 percent increase to its budget for 2022, with most of that extra funding going towards a pilot skills training program.


“The 500 thousand dollars is allocated to the idea that we’d like to provide skills to unskilled individuals to move them towards a living wage," State Labor Secretary Karryl Hubbard explained. "At the level of 500 thousand dollars, it would be a pilot program.”


Elevate Delaware, as it would be known, would offer up to $10,000 to students enrolled in a non-degree certificate program.


State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) floated the program in legislation two years ago, but it died in committee. Now the Department of Labor wants to revive the idea.


Some Joint Finance Committee members added this kind of program would be great in southern Delaware, where there’s a need for more skilled workers.


Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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