When the global COVID-19 crisis swept through the country in early 2020, people from all walks of life found themselves caught in the crosshairs.
Fortunately, U.S. legislators acted swiftly in March to pass The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $2 trillion economic relief package aims to address the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 by providing fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses and to preserve jobs for industries across the country.
These and other states across the country chose to invest this funding into their No. 1 commodity — people.
Virginia Revs its Economic Engine
In October, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia allocated $30 million in federal CARES Act funding to help Virginians whose employment was affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds will allow workers to pursue workforce training in a high-demand field. The new Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiative will provide scholarships to eligible individuals to enroll in a workforce or community college program in five essential industries, including health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education.
“Even with high unemployment rates, many employers are still struggling to find the talent they need in critical sectors,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “The REV scholarships will help close the skills gap between the jobs open and the Virginians in search of a new career path.”
The initiative will provide one-time REV scholarships of $3,000 to register in a qualifying full-time workforce program and $1,500 to register part-time or in a short-term, noncredit training program. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Local Workforce Development Areas will administer the CARES Act funding for the REV initiative, with $27 million allocated to VCCS for statewide programs and $3 million for the two workforce areas. Together Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia have experienced nearly 50% of all the initial and continuing unemployment claims.
Texas Keeps Students on Track
In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the state would allocate an additional $118 million in federal funding to support higher education in Texas, including $93 million to help students continue or restart their progress toward earning a post-secondary credential or degree.
The funding follows the $57 million that Governor Abbott and legislative leaders previously allocated to offset potential cuts to state financial aid programs. This combined investment to post-secondary students and institutions, totaling $175 million, comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Trump.
“We cannot allow COVID-19 to disrupt higher education and slow down the growth of a skilled workforce, which this economy needs to get back on track. By providing financial support and investing in a virtual infrastructure, we are helping students overcome the challenges caused by this pandemic and achieve their goals,” said Senator Jane Nelson.
Mississippi Reskills Workforce Amid Pandemic
In August, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced the launch of the ReSkill Mississippi initiative (ReSkillMS). Mississippians who lost their jobs or had severe cutbacks and went on unemployment due to COVID-19 now have the opportunity to receive skills training at Mississippi community colleges to change jobs into high demand careers. Of the $1.25 billion in federal relief funds sent to Mississippi under the CARES Act, the Mississippi legislature appropriated $55 million to support the state’s workers and employers, which enabled the Governor and a coalition of the state’s workforce leaders to create an innovative new program to train individuals for good-paying jobs most needed right now and into the future.
ReSkillMS was created due to the Governor’s Commission on Economic Recovery’s recommendation that significant dollars from the CARES Act recovery funds be used for workforce training to help lift the economic burden on the workforce from COVID-19. The State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB), the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES), and Mississippi’s four local workforce areas collaborated to develop the program to allow Mississippians out-of-work or those working reduced hours to re-skill to fill high-demand, high-paying jobs across the state.
The direct beneficiaries of ReSkillMS will be Mississippians furloughed, laid off, or otherwise having economic damages and who received unemployment benefits from MDES, as well as Mississippi employers seeking to hire Mississippians immediately and train them on the job. Employers willing to hire and train individuals in the workplace are eligible to be reimbursed for up to 75% of the individual’s wages during the training period. The program requires a minimum fair wage threshold of $15-per-hour for employers to be eligible for reimbursements.
“This program can have a major difference in the lives of Mississippians and in building a stronger economy in our state for the demands of tomorrow’s world,” said SWIB Chairman Patrick Sullivan. “Skilled jobs were in demand before COVID-19, and they will be in demand long after the pandemic is over. Getting more Mississippians the skills for higher-paying jobs is going to be key if we are to see sustained economic growth.”