America’s workforce system plays a huge role in our recovery. Yet it remains woefully underfunded, having been cut by nearly 40 percent over the last decade. This lack of funding is an especially egregious oversight in a pandemic. A staggering number of workers – particularly historically underserved workers of color, women, and immigrants – have lost their jobs. Entire industries have been made – at least temporarily – obsolete by COVID-19. Many of these workers need access to job training to reenter the workforce, and many who are currently employed need additional training to keep their job.
That’s why House and Senate Democrats have reintroduced the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act (RAWA), previously introduced last May. The bill is one of the most ambitious workforce packages to date, increasing funding by $15 billion. NSC helped organize a letter to Congress signed by 500 organizations and education systems in support of the legislation.
RAWA authorizes many essential career services, including:
1. Investments in training for those who have lost their job
RAWA includes $2.5 billion of new funding each for
It also includes a $1 billion increase for Adult Education and Family Literacy Grants (AEFLA). In addition, RAWA almost doubles funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, adding $1 billion in state formula funding.
2. Investments in key partnerships between community colleges and industries seeking talented workers
RAWA supports crucial sector partnerships between community and technical colleges and industry partners. It reinvests $2 billion over three years, and funds can be used for both equipment and training costs.
The bill also restarts the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. TAACCCT was originally conceived in the wake of the Great Recession to help community colleges better support students during the recovery.
3. Investments in workers still on the job who need additional skills (like digital literacy) to remain employed
In addition to increases in funding, the bill provides flexibility to help state and local workforce programs respond to the current crisis. This includes expanding eligibility for WIOA programs to anyone eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. It also allows boards to use up to 40 percent of new funding for incumbent worker training and for transitional jobs. Governors may also reserve additional funding beyond the existing 15 percent Governor’s Reserve to support areas in the state most impacted by COVID-19.
RAWA was one of the most ambitious workforce packages to date when it was originally introduced last May. But eight months later, unemployment has yet to fully rebound. 847,000 Americans filed for unemployment during the first week of the Biden Administration. And no single legislative vehicle would allow us to reach the rate of funding seen in every other industrialized country. Nevertheless, RAWA is still a much-needed shot in the arm for the workforce system. It is imperative that the $15 billion figure becomes the baseline for future stimulus negotiations.
National Skills Coalition has been engaging our vast network in a wide-reaching investment campaign to communicate to members of Congress that investing in our workforce is an immediate imperative. Investing in workforce is an urgent need today, not an issue for later down the road. Inclusion of this funding in any future stimulus package is far from guaranteed, however. It takes a constant drumbeat of advocacy to get funding levels into final packages. Help get RAWA included in the next stimulus by joining the last leg of our invest in skills campaign.