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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, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate  Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and Congresman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, led House and Senate Democrats 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.


The Senate bill is co-led by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Tina Smith (D-MN).


The House bill is co-led by Reps. Andy Levin (MI-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Susan Davis (CA-53), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Susie Lee (NV-03), Haley Stevens (MI-11), and Joe Courtney (CT-02).


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. 


“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 Senator 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.”


“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, said Congressman Scott. “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.”


“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic I traveled across Minnesota to meet with schools, businesses and community leaders. What I saw was a serious demand for workforce education,” said Senator Smith. “And now, given the economic fallout from the pandemic, that demand will only grow. Many Americans who have lost their jobs need help getting back to work. This legislation will bolster our investments in states and communities, workforce education, and community college and industry partnerships which can connect workers to employers. For the sake of workers, employers and local economies we need to move this bill forward.”


“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.”


“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic crisis leaving millions of Americans newly unemployed. It is so important that we boost our investment in workforce development now, so that we can provide our workers with the skills they need to quickly re-enter the workforce and help rebuild our economy,” said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation gives states the resources to expand job training and education opportunities for misplaced workers, and restarts a successful grant program to help businesses find those skilled workers in their community. These are proven ways to respond to our workforce readiness needs and I am hopeful we will see this included in the next COVID relief legislation.”


“As former chief workforce officer for the state of Michigan, I can say with certainty that a major investment in America’s workers is the only way our economy will flourish following this pandemic,” said Congressman Levin. “The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act is the solution American workers need and deserve now, and it will grease the wheels for a smoother recovery as we look to build out of the crisis. I’m proud to work with Chairman Scott and committed members of the Education and Labor Committee to protect working families and restore the dignity and value of work in our country.”


“We’ve asked millions of Americans to sacrifice their financial stability to save lives and defeat the coronavirus,” said Congresswoman Davis. “We owe it to them to help them rebuild their financial security. One way we do that is by supporting employers who keep their workers on the payroll while providing employees an opportunity to improve their skills.”


“Our nation’s ability to get back on our feet depends on our workers ability to gain new skills for the future. COVID-19 has changed how our country thinks about technology and the economy. We need critical investments in our workforce to ensure we emerge from this crisis even stronger than before. This bill will invest much-needed dividends into our workers—the backbone of the American economy,” said Congressman Castro.


“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment - a number that continues to grow each week,” said Congresswoman Fudge.  “As we take steps toward recovering from this unprecedented crisis, it is critical to expand and strengthen our workforce development and career and technical education systems to get people back to work.  The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act will assist the recently unemployed, provide career pathways for underrepresented youth, and ensure coordination between community colleges and industry. I am proud to cosponsor this bill which will jumpstart the economy and provide workers with the skills they need to quickly re-enter the workforce.


“The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left millions without work, and impaired the livelihoods of millions more,” said Congresswoman McBath. “We must do everything we can to support those who have lost their jobs and revitalize those businesses that have suffered setbacks. By providing our workers with additional resources, we can help sustain American families, rebuild our small businesses, and relaunch our economy.”


“I know that Nevada will respond to this crisis as we always do and come out the other side stronger than ever. But to do that, we need to invest heavily in workforce development to give workers and businesses the tools they need to succeed in an economy ravaged by an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Congresswoman Lee. “More Nevadans have filed for unemployment assistance in the last two months than during all of 2019, which means in the coming months hundreds of thousands of Nevadans will be looking to reenter the workforce. To prepare, we need to invest now in training, career navigation, and other services to support both workers and businesses looking to keep workers employed. That includes a program that I’m deeply supportive of also known as the TAACCCT Grant program that will be restarted under this legislation, which supports community college and industry partnerships in creating education and training programs in in-demand industries and sectors. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act is the comprehensive investment that our workers and small businesses need to recharge and strengthen our economy.”


“In my home state of Michigan, nearly 25% of our workforce has applied for unemployment benefits. As a workforce development professional, I know we must take the steps to regrow our economy by connecting dislocated workers to training programs that advance their skillsets and provide access to job opportunities,” said Congresswoman Stevens. “The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act will put our country on the path to economy recovery by advancing equal opportunity and technical and digital training essential to 21st century employment.”


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.


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.