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In Response to Rising Unemployment, Democrats Introduce Legislation to Invest $15 Billion in Workforce Training Needed to Relaunch the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today,  U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee joined Ranking Member Patty Murray and House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott in introducing legislation to invest $15 billion in America’s workforce training infrastructure as well as career and technical education. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act authorizes funding to help workers sharpen their skills and quickly re-enter the workforce as the economy emerges from the deepest decline since the Great Depression.

“American workers are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19. Now more than ever, we must invest in our workforce development systems to help Americans who have lost their jobs quickly re-enter the workforce,” said Senator Kaine. “Our legislation will help provide critical resources to workers laid off because of this crisis and train them for in-demand industries like health care as well as other frontline jobs. And I’m pleased the bill includes my bipartisan proposal with Senator Todd Young to partner with community colleges to prepare students for jobs needed to relaunch our economy.”

“With millions of newly unemployed people looking for work, our nation’s workforce development system – which was already strained by chronic underinvestment – is facing an unprecedented test. This proposal will give hard-hit states and localities the resources they need to immediately assist employers and workers during this pandemic,” Chairman Scott said. “Providing additional resources to the nation’s workforce system now is a critical step in relaunching America’s workers and businesses as the nation begins to recover from the COVID-19 national emergency. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act is a desperately needed investment in workers, employers, and our economy.”

“As the coronavirus crisis continues, millions of workers across the country are unemployed and looking for support and resources they need to get back on their feet,” said Ranking Member Murray. “The Relaunching America's Workforce Act will fill the rapidly growing demand for education, training, and employment services that help people gain skills and find jobs. By investing in our federal workforce programs we can change lives, boost our economy, and get people back to work—and that's exactly what is needed in these difficult times.”

The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act increases support for layoff aversion strategies that allow employers to receive partial funding to keep workers on the payroll while employees improve their job skills through training. The bill also restarts a grant program supporting partnerships between community colleges and industry, which was implemented during the Great Recession and is geared toward getting workers skills for in-demand jobs. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last month, and millions more are likely to be laid off through July. The unprecedented spike in unemployment is likely to significantly increase demand for workforce development services, including training, career navigation, and other services that support dislocated workers or employers looking to keep workers employed. 

The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act:

  • Provides over $10 billion to the state and local public workforce system by supporting dislocated workers, employers, youth and adults seeking jobs. These funds will support workforce training activities, including career navigation services, access to online skills training and employment services, while prioritizing short-term training to health care and essential frontline workers;
  • Invests $1 billion in expanding the capacity of adult education providers across the U.S. to prioritize serving adults with low-literacy levels negatively impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 national emergency; and
  • Invests $1 billion in career and technical education to prepare students for careers in high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industry sectors and occupations.
  • Invests $2 billion to restart the community college career training grant program initiated during the last recession to help employers find talent in their local area, and provide individuals pathways to high-skill, high-wage and in-demand employment opportunities.

The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act is endorsed by National Association of Workforce Boards, Jobs for the Future, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Advance CTE, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, National Job Corps Association, National Network for Youth, and United States Conference of Mayors.

Along with Senators Kaine and Murray, the Senate bill is co-led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

For a section-by-section of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, click here.

For the bill text of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, click here.