Federal policy allows immigrants with lawful residency to qualify for unemployment benefits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latino unemployment stands at 10% while the national average sits at 7.7%, meaning a large number of Hispanic households could benefit from federal aid.
Yet a recent study by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released this month shows that Latino immigrants are less likely than their white counterparts to receive unemployment insurance.
NELP is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. Their study shows that 35.1% of insurance recipients are white, while only 19.3% are Latino immigrants.
One reason why numbers are lower for Latinos is because they don’t apply for unemployment insurance as frequently as white workers.
According to NELP, 49.5% of unemployed whites apply for unemployment insurance, compared to only 34% of Hispanics.
Of those who do apply, 56.8% of Hispanics receive insurance, compared to 70.9% of white applicants.
Latino citizens showed higher numbers of application and approval than their immigrant counterparts, yet their numbers still fell below that of white, unemployed workers.
Applications for Hispanic citizens stood at 40.6% and their approval rate was of 60.1%.
So why aren’t more unemployed Hispanic immigrants applying for insurance?
The authors of the study say the main reason is because many jobless workers believe they are ineligible to receive benefits.
To qualify for unemployment insurance, applicants must meet state’s monetary eligibility rules — earn a predetermined wage and fill a certain number of work hours.
Hispanic workers hold higher numbers of low-wage, part-time jobs.
For this reason, many think they did not earn a high enough salary or work enough hours to meet the application requirements.
Another factor that affects jobless Hispanic workers from applying are obstacles in the application process along with language barriers.
The study points to Florida’s new claims-filling procedures as an example of how the application process is difficult for disadvantaged, Hispanic workers.
Florida requires workers to fill out an online application that includes a 45-question “initial skills review,” as oppose to speaking to someone over the phone.
The authors say, “the difficulties associated with these changes fall disproportionately on that state’s low-wage workforce, particularly individuals for whom English is not a first language.”
According to NELP, in 2011 27% of workers received unemployment insurance nationwide, while only 17% of unemployed workers in Florida received state unemployment benefits.
To raise the number of applicants who need help yet are not applying for state aid, NELP recommends the following:
- There are no federal outreach programs to inform the public about unemployment insurance and their chances for eligibility. Since the study found there is a lower program knowledge among Latinos, NELP recommends starting awareness programs targeted at the Hispanics.
- Research shows that both initial and continuing application rates are higher among states who perform employer filing. Employer filing means employers file claims on behalf of their former employees.
- Make it mandatory for employers to inform former workers who involuntarily lose their jobs that they could be eligible for unemployment benefits and to provide instructions for applications.
NELP’s Unemployment Insurance Application and Receipt: Findings on Demographic Disparities and Suggestions for Change, takes into account recent unemployment trends but also relies on a 2005 supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS), the nation’s primary source of labor force statistics.