Approval of benefits for individuals applying for COVID-19 unemployment payments came more readily for White applicants than their Black counterparts, an audit by the General Accountability Office (GAO) said on Thursday.
“Among the most recent phase 3 survey respondents, 80.2 percent of White, non-Hispanic/Latino UI [unemployment insurance] applicants reported receiving UI benefits, as compared to 73.0 percent of Black, non-Hispanic/Latino applicants,” the audit report said.
The report did not attempt to determine reasons for these disparities, but the results “could suggest that states may be approving or processing unemployment claims differently for applicants in different racial and ethnic groups,” the report said.
Phase 3 refers to the COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress in March 2020, which provided an additional $600 to weekly unemployment benefits to workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic.
GAO found similar disparities in a preliminary review of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in five states. The program temporarily expanded benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the pandemic.
In two of the five states, for example, the percentage of White PUA claimants who received benefits in 2020 was considerably higher than the percentage of Black PUA claimants who received benefits that year, the report said.
GAO noted that while its PUA analysis based on state-provided data was preliminary, auditors continue to examine racial disparities with the selected states.GAO Report