April 24, 2020

Gillibrand Calls For Over $15 Billion In Funding For Workforce Development In Fourth COVID-19 Relief Package

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged Congress to include $15.1 billion in workforce development system funding in the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic has forced workplaces to close or limit services. As unemployment in New York soars, Senator Gillibrand joined her Senate colleagues in calling for direct support for critical workforce development and career and technical education, particularly in industries where demand has grown — frontline health services, manufacturing PPE and essential equipment, and contact tracing.

“While the coronavirus outbreak has pushed millions of Americans into economic instability and financial hardship, the demand for frontline workers has grown,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For our country to recover, it is essential that we invest in developing a workforce that will address the current crisis and employ them with sustainable, good-paying jobs. This funding will train workers with in-demand skills and build the strong, skilled, and diverse American workforce needs during this unprecedented time.”

In the past month alone, nearly 22 million workers filed unemployment claims, and nearly all of the jobs gained in the last five years have been lost. In the letter, Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues recommended investing at least $15.1 billion in programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, including Wagner-Peyser, adult education, Layoff Aversion Funds, and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, in forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. The training will provide newly unemployed Americans — and those yet to file claims — with training and support to prepare them for a transition into new careers and pursue reemployment opportunities as the economy rebounds

Full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

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Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer: 

Thank you for your bipartisan effort to respond to the health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As you prepare for a fourth economic relief package, we respectfully request you allocate at least $15.1 billion to the workforce development system in the United States to help our country respond the demands for new workers in key industries and help individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of this crisis transition to family-supporting jobs. 

Over the past month, nearly 22 million workers filed unemployment claims, and nearly all of the jobs gained in the last five years have been lost. In addition, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that 19.8 million workers will lose their jobs or be furloughed by summer, and that the national unemployment rate will be well above 15 percent by July.

Although unemployment is surging overall, certain workforce needs are nonetheless growing, from frontline health services to manufacturing PPE and essential equipment, to contact tracing, and there is frequently a mismatch between the skills demanded for these jobs and the available workforce.  Although jobs in these industries do not always require four-year academic degrees, they necessitate high-quality workforce training and development. An immediate investment in workforce development would respond to the current demand for these employees while offering Americans meaningful, well-paying careers.

Moreover, we must strategically plan for a post-coronavirus period of economic recovery and make sure workers have the construction, manufacturing, and other technical skills that they need to rejoin an evolving workforce. Economists are already warning that many of the jobs lost may not come back and that the current crisis will only accelerate changes in the economy.  By supporting the development and availability of a workforce trained in in-demand skills, we can accelerate the recovery of our nation’s economy. Providing these newly unemployed individuals—and those yet to file claims—training and support today will prepare them to transition into new careers and pursue reemployment opportunities as our economy rebounds.

Labor unions, workforce boards, community colleges, community-based organizations, and other groups that provide career and technical education, are ready to support Americans who are in need of assistance, as they were during the downturn known as the “Great Recession.” Congress was also ready to assist workers during that crisis; it increased funding for employment and training assistance by 40 percent. That decisive action helped our workforce development system serve more than eight million people. We ask Congress to once again support employment and training assistance programs.

Specifically, we urge you to invest at least $15.1 billion in programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, including Wagner-Peyser, youth and adult education, Layoff Aversion Funds, and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, in forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. 

Thirty-eight labor and education advocacy groups share our concerns and call for immediate assistance from Congress. 

Thank you for your commitment to developing a strong, skilled, and diverse workforce in the United States. We look forward to working with you on the next relief package to ensure we provide resources to reskill and upskill workers.

Sincerely,