Welcome to the Massachusetts Workforce Association's monthly newsletter: Workforce Connections! Look for this publication in your inbox each month and share with your staff and others.

In This Issue:
  • State and Federal Policy Updates: New State Bill to Help Business, Reopening, MAPC Economic Development Strategy, UI Data, American Rescue Plan, Walsh Confirmed as Secretary of DOL,
  • MWA Updates: March Webinar Recap, Conversation with Sen. Lewis, State House Virtual Briefing and New Policy Paper, MWA in the News, Anti-Racism Resources, Upcoming Partner Learning Opportunities
  • Member Updates: WCTF ESOL Grant Awards, MassHire Central EPA Grant, Local RFPs
  • News From Around the Sector: Jobs, Funding, Research, Training, and more
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State Public Policy
State House
Legislature Passes Bill to Assist MA Businesses and Workers

On March 25th the House and Senate enacted H.90, An Act financing a program for improvements to the unemployment insurance trust fund and providing relief to employers and workers of the Commonwealth. The bill is currently awaiting the Governor's signature. This $351 million bill which includes $7 billion in borrowing authority, does the following to help businesses and job seekers:
  • Allows those who are unemployed and whose household incomes do not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level to deduct the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 and 2021.
  • Creates a COVID-19 emergency sick leave program allowing full-time workers to access up to 40 hours of paid time off if they get sick, need to quarantine or care for a family member (part time workers receive varying amounts of time off).
  • Freezes UI rate increases on employers (rates would go up by 16 percent rather than 60 percent).
  • Includes an additional surcharge on employers through 2022 to pay back interest on federal loans to pay UI benefits (estimated to cost MA businesses $57 per employee in 2021 and $66 per employee in 2022).
  • Exempts employers from state tax burdens on any forgiven loans through PPP.
  • Authorizes 20-year bonds to address immediate UI trust fund needs to keep the fund solvent.
  • Creates a 21-member commission to study the solvency of the UI trust fund.
Reopening Updates

On March 22nd the Commonwealth advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the state's reopening plan due to continuing improvement in public health metrics and increased access to vaccinations.

All communities in Massachusetts can now move into Step 1 of Phase IV which includes: (1) the opening of large capacity sports and entertainment venues at 12% capacity; (2) increased gathering limits for event venues and public settings; and (3) the opening of exhibition and convention halls. Some cities have elected to move slower with local reopening. You can read more reopening details here. In addition the Massachusetts Travel Order was replaced with a Travel Advisory. Click here to learn more.
MAPC Releases Economic Development Strategy

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has released its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
for 2020-2025.

MAPC is presented with the opportunity to create CEDS, a regional economic development strategy, every five years as part of its designation as an Economic Development District (EDD) through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

MWA, along with member Mary Sarris, Executive Director of the MassHire North Shore Workforce Board, were part of an advisory committee who worked with MAPC to develop the recommendations. You can read the full report here.
January and February 2021 Unemployment Rate and Claims Data
Last Friday, the state released the unemployment rate for February 2021. Massachusetts saw its seasonally adjusted rate decline 0.7 percentage points to 7.1 percent from the revised January rate of 7.8 percent, still higher than the U.S. rate of 6.2 percent.

The MA labor force participation rate, 66.3 percent, is down 0.1 percentage points from the prior year. The labor force dropped by 11,900 from January. Click here to read the state press release with more detail by industry. Local unemployment estimates were released on 3/30 and the local press release can be found here.

Click here for a state by state analysis of unemployment by race and ethnicity by the Economic Policy Institute.

UI Claims Data
Last week DUA released the most recent initial claims for the week ending 3/20/2021 including the number of PUA and PEUC claims filed to date. Click here for the state press release which includes charts of initial and continued claims by demographic characteristics and industry.
  • Since March 15, 2020, more than 2M initial claims for unemployment have been filed in Massachusetts.
  • Continued claims for the week ending 3/20 decreased for the third consecutive week at 125,698.
  • Since April 20, 2020, nearly 955K people filed for PUA.
  • After correcting for a system data issue, DUA reports nearly 204K people filed continued weeks for PEUC.
  • Since September 6th, the first week that claims were filed under the federal/state Extended Benefits (EB) program, nearly 34K individuals have filed for continued weeks under EB.
Federal Public Policy
Capital Building_ Washington DC
American Rescue Plan Signed Into Law

On March 12th the President signed the American Rescue Plan into law. This legislation provides approximately $1.9 trillion in spending to address the continued impact of COVID-19 and is a follow up to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), which became law in late March 2020, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 devoted to COVID-19 relief, which was adopted in late December 2020.

Click here to read a summary of the legislation and here for an excel chart with state and local aid amounts. MWA extends a sincere thank you to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation for their support in the passage of this historic piece of legislation. Click here to read MWA's letter to the MA delegation.

What Comes Next For Workforce Development?

While there was no direct workforce funding included in this legislation, Congress is turning its attention on to an infrastructure bill, with the promise of workforce funding to be part of this package. MWA continues to work with state and national colleagues on increased workforce funding and recently supported two letters calling for additional investments into the workforce system.

Click here for a copy of the Dear Colleague letter that was recently circulated in the U.S. House and here for a copy of the Campaign to Invest in America's Workforce letter. Questions? Reach out to Tonja or Raija anytime.

ICYMI - Katie Spiker with the National Skills Coalition recently authored a great piece titled Is it too late for Washington to Invest in our Workforce Recovery? Not yet, but the clock is ticking. Click here to read the piece in full.
Mayor Walsh Confirmed as Secretary of Labor

MWA congratulates Secretary Marty J. Walsh on his recent confirmation. We look forward to working with him and the Employment and Training Administration to help get people back to work and ensure our workforce system is adequately funded and supported.

PPP Deadline Extended

Yesterday, President Biden signed an extension to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The deadline to apply for PPP loans have been extended to May 31st. In addition the law extends authorization of loans to June 30th, giving SBA additional time to process applications.
JOBS Act Reintroduced in Congress

Earlier this month Senator Portman and others reintroduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. Among other things, this legislation would make high-quality, shorter-term education and training programs eligible for Pell grants.

Given the impact of COVID-19, we need more high-quality, short-term programs to ensure all workers and businesses can access and contribute to an inclusive economic recovery.

You can read a letter by the National Skills Coalition in support of the bill here.

Input Sought from Stakeholders on Workforce Policies
Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, are requesting input from stakeholders on policy ideas on workforce development. The Senators announced they intend to work together to develop bipartisan solutions to update and expand workforce training programs, support and expand the National Apprenticeship Act, and encourage innovation.

Comments are encouraged from all stakeholders by April 9, 2021. Specifically, Senators Murray and Burr would like to hear from stakeholders with proposals regarding:

  • How to enhance or improve workforce training in direct relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, including ways to address workforce needs of the health care and public health sectors;
  • Reforms to programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • Ways to develop, modernize, and diversify the national apprenticeship system, including innovative approaches such as youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; and
  • Strategies to encourage innovation to address worker and industry needs.

Click here to learn more, including where to send any feedback. MWA will be working with other state workforce associations on collective feedback. If you have ideas or comments to share, please reach out to Tonja by April 5th.
March Workforce Webinar Recap: Helping Businesses Plan for the Future through Employee Ownership
On March 16th MWA welcomed the Massachusetts Center for Employee Ownership to share the resources they provide to MA businesses who are looking for succession planning options. Employee ownership is also a way to help retain good workers. The Center is funded by the state to provide these services for free. During the pandemic, they developed a program targeted to small and medium sized firms at risk of closing, Keep the Doors Open.

Our next Workforce Webinar: Improvise into the Unknown: Techniques for Adapting to Uncertain Times is scheduled for April 20th at 3PM. Click here to register.
MWA Hosts Workforce Conversation with Senator Jason Lewis
MWA held a Workforce Conversation with Senator Jason Lewis on February 25th. Currently, Senator Lewis is Chair of the Education Committee and was previously Chair of Labor and Workforce Development Committee. He is also a longtime supporter of workforce development and training. Sen. Lewis is vice-chair on a new Senate committee this year focusing on Reimagining Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency. The Senator shared his belief that workforce development would be central to the committee's agenda. In addition, as Chair on the Joint Committee on Education, Sen. Lewis is a lead sponsor of the Common Start Coalition's early education and child care legislation. We're grateful for Sen. Lewis' strong support and partnership on these important issues.
MWA in the News
MWA, WSG and other Workforce Organizations Release New Report on Rapid Reemployment Strategies
Last week a broad coalition of business, workforce development, community-based organizations, training, philanthropy and research groups released Rapid Reemployment for a Just and Equitable Recovery. The report aims to elevate the importance of workforce development and training in state and federal economic recovery public policy discussions. Click here to read the report and here for the web version with interactive graphics.

In addition, on March 22nd, the Chairs of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, the Workforce Solutions Group, MWA, Boston Indicators, and JVS-Boston, hosted a virtual policy briefing, releasing the 5 recommendations from the report, Rapid Reemployment to Ensure a Just and Equitable Recovery in Massachusetts. There were over 125 people in attendance including dozens of Legislators and staff. Click here for coverage by WBUR.

MWA in partnership with the Workforce Solutions Group, JVS-Boston, SkillWorks and Boston Indicators, will be hosting another virtual Workforce Briefing, featuring Secretary Acosta, on April 12th at 11:00 a.m. Click here to register!
MWA Associate Director Raija Vaisanen wrote an op-ed entitled, Invest in Workforce to Ensure an Equitable Recovery, that was published in the Boston Business Journal on March 10th. Click here to read the BBJ version and here for the version on our website
The Boston Business Journal recently held an event on Race, Equity and Business on March 25th, featuring Sheena Collier of Boston While Black, Claudia Green of English for New Bostonians, Juan Lopera of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Colette Phillips of Colette Phillips Communications. The BBJ also interviewed MWA Associate Director, Raija Vaisanen for the follow-up article for the event. Notably, the BBJ visited MassHire Lowell Career Center and the article mentions MassHire Metro North Workforce Board's Work to Thrive effort. Click here for the article (may be subject to paywall).
Racial Justice in Workforce Development Resources
Youth Jobs Connect Future of Youth Employment Forum, April 6th
Youth Jobs Connect, a new non-profit founded during the COVID-19 crisis to help summer youth employment programs continue with remote and hybrid options, is holding a Future of Youth Employment forum on Tuesday, April 6th 11AM - 2:30PM. This forum is designed as a working session for youth, corporate and philanthropic supporters, government officials and youth employment program representatives. They'll share challenges, best practices, and provide time for collaborative problem solving on how to upgrade these programs to better align with labor market demands and most importantly place more opportunity youth in their first good job. They'll also discuss how to push the public and private sector to create more hybrid and virtual job opportunities this summer. MWA Associate Director, Raija Vaisanen, will be co-facilitating one of the breakouts! For more information and to register, click here.
California Workforce Association's 2021 Virtual WORKCON
The California Workforce Association is inviting workforce professionals from around the country to join its annual spring conference this year virtually. Click here to learn more and to register. Click here if you would like to submit a presentation. Presentation proposals are due April 2nd.
Baker-Polito Administration Announces Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for ESOL-Enhanced Training and Placement Programs

On March 22nd, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for ESOL-Enhanced Training and Placement Programs. These grants will support workforce programming that better serves individuals for whom English is not their first language and/or have limited English proficiency, resulting in improved job access and financial stability for individuals and their families while meeting employer demand for talent. The five program design grants were awarded to Catholic Charities (DBA El Centro), City of Worcester Public Schools, English for New Bostonians, MWA Member MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board and UMass Amherst. Click here to read the press release for more information.
MassHire Central Workforce Board Receives EPA Brownfields Job Training Grant
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected the City of Worcester's MassHire Central Region Workforce Board for a $199,998 Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant (EWDJT). This is one of 18 grant recipients selected to share $3.3 million to operate environmental job training programs for local citizens across the country. This grant will be used by City of Worcester to train up to 54 people in important skills needed to work in the environmental remediation field and to assist local economic development. The City is targeting newly naturalized citizens, low-income residents, and veterans in the five urban-core Opportunity Zone census tracts in Worcester. This grant program advances environmental justice by providing an opportunity for residents historically impacted by brownfield sites to gain training and employment as a result of cleanup activities taking place in their communities. Click here for the press release to learn more.
  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Metro North Workforce Board is hiring a Youth Programs Specialist. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Board is hiring an Administrative Assistant. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire North Shore Workforce Board is hiring a Career Center Executive Director. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - The New England Board of Higher Education is hiring a Director of Finance and Administration and an Assistant Director for the Regional Student Program. Click here to view the postings and learn more.

  • Job Opportunities - Commonwealth Corporation is hiring for several positions: Program Manager for Sector Strategies, Salesforce Nonprofit Consultant, YouthWorks Associate Director, Controller, Staff Accountant, WTFP Program Coordinator, and YouthWorks Program Manager. Click here to view the postings and to apply.

  • Funding Opportunity - Commonwealth Corporation has issued an RFR for $4.652M for the Partnerships for Recovery: Rapid Reemployment Program. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through September 30, 2021 or until grant funds are exhausted. Click here to learn more.

  • Funding Opportunity - Commonwealth Corporation has issued the FY21 RFP for the Re-Entry Workforce Development Demonstration Program. Applications are due April 9, 2021. Click here to learn more.

  • Funding Opportunity - The MA Office of Apprenticeship's Apprenticeship Growth and Expansion Funding Opportunity has extended the deadline for applications to April 2, 2021. Click here to learn more.

  • Funding Opportunity - The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is seeking proposals for its Expanding Access to Opportunity in the Offshore Wind Workforce program. Click here to learn more. Proposals are due May 7th.

  • News - The MA Association of Community Colleges has hired a Workforce Development Director, Lisa Huyghe. Click here to read the press release welcoming her to MACC.

  • Resource - The Aspen Institute Job Quality Library includes a great resource from Cuyahoga County, an Employer Engagement Question Bank. This tool is designed to help workforce professionals engage in conversations with businesses to support the job seekers they work with. Click here for the question bank.

  • Job Seeker Workshops for 50+ Latino Communities - The MassHire Career Centers, MA Council on Aging, and Susan Kelly are putting on several virtual workshops targeting 50+ year old job seekers in Latino communities across Massachusetts. Click here for the flyer in English and here for the Spanish version.

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