Senators Shaheen & Hassan Push for Critical Investments in Workforce Development in Next COVID-19 Package

April 22, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today joined their colleagues in pushing for critical workforce development and career and technical education funding in the next COVID-19 relief bill. As unemployment in New Hampshire and across the country continues to hit record levels, the Senators’ letter highlights the concern that workers will need additional training to meet current workforce needs, such as in health care or for manufacturers producing personal protective equipment. The letter was led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

“Although unemployment is surging overall, certain workforce needs are nonetheless growing, from frontline health services to manufacturing [personal protective equipment] and essential equipment, to contact tracing, and there is frequently a mismatch between the skills demanded for these jobs and the available workforce,” the Senators wrote. “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.”

The Senators continued, “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.”

Specifically, the Senators requested that the funding go toward programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—programs designed to help build a strong, skilled, and diverse American workforce. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Hassan fought to include critical priorities for New Hampshire in the updated Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that passed the Senate in 2018, including requiring that career and technical education programs collaborate with local industry and workforce development organizations to better meet the needs of innovative businesses and ensuring that traditionally underserved students, such as students who experience disabilities, have access to career guidance and academic counseling.

The full text of the letter is available here or below:

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.