Two Minnesota Institutions Join Forces to Bolster Jobseekers

UI and MELSA team up to improve UI services

DEED’s Unemployment Insurance Division (UI) and the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA) hosted a webinar titled “Understanding Unemployment Insurance and Its Impact on Your Library Customers” on Jan. 27.  Nearly 300 library staff from across the nation participated in the training session.

The objective was to suggest ways in which libraries and Unemployment Insurance programs can partner to provide improved resources and support to unemployed workers.

There is a growing need to educate library staff so they can better assist their customers who apply for UI online, according to MELSA’s Jobs and Small Business Task Force. And that number is significant.  More than 80 percent of Minnesota‘s UI applicants apply for benefits and request payments online.  A large proportion of these UI customers use library computers because they provide free Internet access.

Ed Seel, a supervisor with the UI Program, explained that it’s essential for applicants to be provided with timely, accurate information, since UI is receiving 3,000 to 5,000 applications for benefits each week. That’s why library staffers’ role assisting customers with the UI website is vital. 

He gave important instructions to pass on to library customers applying for UI benefits.  Applicants should:

·         Apply for benefits immediately after being separated from employment;

·         Apply to the state where they worked most recently (which may not be the state where the applicant lives); and

·         Refrain from using websites that charge fees for UI information to be used to apply for benefits. Minnesota applicants should always use the state’s official UI website:www.UIMN.org.  

Alice Neve, public services manager at St. Paul Public Libraries, spoke about best practices for improving services. She said that library staff members in St. Paul see peak demand for the UI website each Monday morning.  Since more customers need help using the website during that time, staff meetings have been rescheduled, and library hours have been adjusted.

The webinar, moderated by Melinda Ludwiczak, MELSA project manager, was the first in a series of libraries, jobs, and small business webinars offered in collaboration with MELSA’s Jobs and Small Business Task Force.

The topic of the second webinar, scheduled for April 20, is “Working with Your WorkForce Center.”  Examples of programs, services, and tools that libraries can use to assist the unemployed and job seekers in their communities are available at http://www.webjunction.org/workforce-resources. The archive that contains resources for the webinar held Jan. 27 is available here.  For information and registration for the webinar scheduled for April 20, click here.

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