At the outset of the pandemic, we saw how states were struggling to process unemployment benefits for gig workers, who were eligible for these critical benefits for the first time ever. Gig workers are everything from Uber drivers and farm workers to freelance workers and domestic workers, and they are more likely to be people of color. Our country’s unemployment system wasn’t designed with them in mind and didn’t anticipate having to confirm income that comes from multiple sources for multiple jobs within the same day.
We asked, “What if gig workers didn’t have to patch together tax forms, screenshots, and spreadsheets or jump through hurdles to fill out state unemployment insurance applications?”
We teamed up with our trusted partner Steady to help them develop and test a tech solution that solves the challenge of verifying income from gig work and paves the way for government leaders to more easily deliver timely and accurate unemployment benefits to gig workers.
One of the great things about our solution is that it has been built with the help of gig workers, including the invaluable support of Philadelphia Legal Assistance and workers from the Philadelphia Drivers Union. Our partners there used, tested, and informed the development of the technology so that it addressed their problems, rather than creating new ones.
Our next hope and expectation is to partner with a state to do the same; to demonstrate that government can innovate not only to make gig workers’ lives easier today, but also to make our unemployment insurance system more equitable, accessible, and inclusive of workers that have historically been excluded. That’s what good government does. It takes care of people. And we want to help.
We adapted Google's Design Sprint methodology - an intensive, time-bound approach to solve problems that reduces risk when bringing a new product to market - in order to:
Worker income is volatile. We asked, “What if workers in need had $1,000 available - no strings attached - for unexpected expenses?”
From 2017 - 2020 The Workers Lab invested in and led a Design Sprint focused on getting emergency cash to workers. We partnered with thought leaders across the fields of financial inclusion, product innovation, and labor and employment policy to design and test an emergency cash delivery pilot. We called the effort The Workers Strength Fund and delivered $350,000 in emergency cash over the course of the Design Sprint. Our methodology and findings from this experiment are now available in a report and recorded briefing.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in 2021, we were able to quickly respond. We utilized the learnings and infrastructure from The Workers Strength Fund to create The Workers Fund: COVID-19 Rapid Response. The Workers Lab had trusted relationships, tested tools, and respected partners in place to be a financial first responder. Through this effort, The Workers Lab delivered nearly $2.8 million in emergency cash to more than 12,600 workers across the country. More on this important effort can be found here.