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posted Friday, November 20, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 47
Rep. Smith introduces bill to protect at-risk workers and enhance workforce training
Section One
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Rep. Smith introduces bill to protect at-risk workers and enhance workforce training

WASHINGTON, DC (November 12, 2020) - Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Emergency Economic and Workforce System Resiliency Act, which would provide new funding to states and localities to prevent layoffs, meet the needs of dislocated workers, and collaborate with employers on innovative strategies for preserving existing and creating new jobs.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers have been laid off and displaced. This disruption in the labor market has only further highlighted the need for an updated workforce training system that coordinates across public and private sectors and better prepares our workers for the changing job market," said Rep. Smith. "The current systems in place meant to prepare workers and spur economic development are siloed from each other - economic development activities are often completely separate from programs that provide unemployment and other benefits to unemployed or underemployed workers.

"Whether it is growing automation and technological advancements or the transition to a green economy, there will inevitably be changes to our workforce needs. We must ensure that our workforce system can prepare workers for these transitions. This bill would provide desperately needed funding to states and localities over the next five years to help prevent layoffs, support workers in vulnerable jobs as they prepare to transition, and financially support workers during transition. It would provide resources to develop training, retraining, and other programs to help workers gain the skills and credentials they need to obtain and keep high quality jobs in in-demand fields with family-sustaining wages and benefits."

The Emergency Economic and Workforce System Resiliency Act creates a five-year funding stream to states and localities to invest in new programs to prevent layoffs, meet the needs of displaced workers, and strengthen the viability of employers to preserve existing jobs and create new ones. This funding would help states meet the exacerbated needs of the workforce system during the pandemic and economic downturn and would be a model going forward as new and unexpected disruptions impact workers.

The bill encourages states to collaborate across state agencies and with other nonprofit and for-profit entities. States are encouraged to prioritize partnerships with firms and industries that offer high quality, in-demand jobs with competitive wages and benefits.

The bill also funds five-year pilot programs for states to pilot innovative workforce-system-wide layoff-aversion models. These grants will promote innovation at the state level to support workers throughout the career life cycle and to bolster firm resiliency in the wake of economic disruption.

Eleni Papadakis, executive director of the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board [said,] "I am struck by the potential long-range impact inherent in this bill. It is rare to see federal legislation that addresses the issues of the here and now, while also supporting transformative investments for future impact. While this bill would provide significant new resources to help displaced workers prepare for high-demand, high-wage employment, it will also enable states to learn from the pandemic and reengineer public systems for the future - to better support businesses, workers, and communities for economic resilience. I so appreciate the bill's aim toward shared prosperity and equitable and inclusive economic recovery. The bill also shows a solid understanding of how globalization, technology, environmental, and security issues are inducing tremendous changes to work and workplaces - and supports states to face these critical challenges to our economic vitality."

Courtesy of Rep. Adam Smith

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