Labor Department aims research funds at low-wage workers

The U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau is joining the effort to figure out how to increase access to retirement savings plans and how to make them more portable.

The Women's Bureau has awarded a total of $154,000 to three worker advocacy groups. The Brazilian Worker Center Inc. in Allston, Mass., will research developing a prototype mobile benefits platform aimed at predominantly low-wage domestic workers without benefits.

The Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights in Chicago will conduct a needs assessment of the state's economically vulnerable workers who don't have access to plans at work, and identify barriers to participation in the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program.

The Fair Work Center in Seattle will conduct a needs assessment among low-wage workers, employers and benefits providers to understand the challenges and barriers that low-wage workers face in saving for retirement.

Nearly 1 in 3 workers lacks access to a retirement savings plan, according to the DOL. For firms with fewer than 50 employees, the number is 1 in 2 and it is even higher for part-time workers.

The grants are part of a Labor Department effort to support innovative ways to increase retirement security, particularly for lower paid workers, said Women's Bureau Director Latifa Lyles.

This article originally appeared in the October 3, 2016 print issue as, "Labor Department aims research funds at low-wage workers".