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: House ARPA Proposal Released, Build Back Better and Federal Budget Updates, Policy Highlight, and Economic Data
  • MWA Updates: October MWA Workforce Webinar Recap, Racial Justice Resources, 2021 Jobs and Workforce Summit Recap, MWA Joins #TalkAboutWork Twitter Chat, Mass Taxpayers Support for Workforce Development
  • Member Updates: MassHire Award Finalist Workshops, Member Highlights and Recognition, Mass Business Roundtable Releases Talent Agenda, JVS Boston Job Quality Event and more.
  • News From Around the Sector: Jobs, funding, news and updates now on our website!
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State Public Policy
State House
House Releases a $3.65 Billion Plan to Spend ARPA and Surplus Funds

Earlier this week, House leadership released its proposal, a $3.65 billion spending package that would invest in housing, hospitals, schools, and workforce development. The $3.65 billion draws on about 50% of the almost $5 billion in ARPA funds and about $1.15 billion in surplus FY21 funds.

See below for some of the highlights relating to workforce and economic development. You can read a summary of the bill here and the bill text here.
  • $500M for premium pay bonuses for essential workers, specifically low to mid-income workers who worked in person throughout the state of emergency.
  • $150M for WCTF (to support individuals who need training and/or additional education to re-engage with the workforce mentions LTE, ESOL, adult basic ed, and capacity for the workforce system)
  • $100M for CTI
  • $40M for YouthWorks to support summer and school-year jobs for young people from economically disadvantaged communities
  • $15M for Reentry
  • $500 million into the state's unemployment insurance trust fund (this addresses some of the increased costs employers were due experience due to covid related layoffs)
  • $25M for small businesses, and $25M for minority-owned businesses
  • $50M to closing the digital divide in low-income areas
  • $200M worth of tax relief for small businesses that paid personal income taxes on State or Federal relief awards over the last year and a half

Later today, the full House will debate and pass this legislation. Representatives filed over 1000 amendments, with many pertaining to education and infrastructure earmarks. You can view all the amendments here. Once passed, this legislation will move over to the Senate (very similar to a normal budget process). The Legislature is trying to pass and send a final bill to Governor Baker before they recess for winter break.
Senate Releases Report on Post COVID Resilience

Earlier this month, the State Senate Special Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency, which was chaired by State Senator Adam Hinds, released its report on reimagining the future of the Commonwealth post pandemic.

The report highlights issues around heath costs, equity, the pandemic's impact on women, environmental justice, and education.

You can read the entire report here.
MA Receives DOL CAREER Grant

Earlier this month, DOL announced it had awarded nearly $68 million to hep 29 organizations in 20 states and territories connect job seekers to employment as the economy continues to recovery from the pandemic. Massachusetts was awarded $3M. You can learn more about this award here.

MCB Launches a New Campaign

Mass Commission for the Blind (MCB) has launched a new PSA campaign "What's Your Vision" to highlight how vocational rehabilitation services have helped community members and employers achieve their workforce goals. You can view the PSA campaign here.
New Feature: Highlighting Legislation Impacting Employers, Job Seekers, and the MA Workforce System

Each month, MWA will highlight state legislation of interest to the greater workforce development community. Our hope is that readers will not only learn more about pending legislation, but in some instances, be provided with actionable steps to take for those who want to support the proposal and/or learn more. We welcome input and suggestions on this new section of our newsletter. See below for this month's highlight:

H.2018/S.1173 An Act relative to employment protections for victims of abusive behavior (Sponsored by Livingston, Elugardo and Creem)
This legislation is currently before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and received a hearing in June 2021. Forty-nine legislators have cosponsored and MWA's public policy committee voted to endorse this legislation earlier this fall. Other supporters include Jane Doe, Inc. and the Alliance for Business Leadership.

Bill Summary: This legislation would help survivors and their families keep and find work so they can be economically independent and secure. It would also help employers ensure their employees’ safety at work and will clarify employers’ obligations. Specifically the legislation would:
  • Under the Abusive Behavior Leave Law (an existing policy), employers of 50 or more have to provide leave to victims of abusive behavior. However, it currently does not protect against discrimination.
  • This legislation would build on and amend the Abusive Behavior Leave Law by providing definitions and creating a requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure employees and prospective employees are protected. Would also offer offer clarification and guidance for smaller companies.

See a fact sheet here for more information. To read the bill in its entirety click here.
September 2021 Unemployment Rate and Claims Data
On October 22nd, the state released the unemployment rate for September 2021 and the revised rate for August. Massachusetts' rate increased from August to 5.2 percent, 0.4 of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.8 percent. The MA labor force participation rate was up 0.2 of a percentage point to 65.9 percent, up 1.2 percentage points from the prior year. The labor force increased by 11,300 from August. Since September 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts gained 175,200 jobs. Gains occurred in all sectors led by Leisure and Hospitality; Professional, Scientific, and Business Services; and Trade, Transportation and Utilities. Click here to read the state press release. Local unemployment estimates were released on 10/26 and the local press release can be found here.

UI Claims Data
On 10/21 DUA released the initial claims for the month ending 10/16/2021. This marks a return to monthly press releases accompanying the state unemployment rate from the weekly press releases that have been issued since the start of the pandemic and the implementation of federal pandemic unemployment assistance. Weekly UI claims reporting can be found here. Click here for the state press release which includes charts of initial and continued claims by demographic characteristics and industry.

Over the month, 18,402 individuals filed initial claims for regular unemployment assistance, a decrease of 7,011 claims from the previous 4 weeks aggregated.
  • Continued claims decreased 13,807 from the previous four weeks to 217,208 between 9/19 and 10/16.
  • PUA continued weeks decreased to 101,105; down 654,455 from the previous 4 weeks (8/22-9/18). There were 2,762 initial PUA claims filed. This program ended on 9/4/21.
  • PEUC continued weeks claimed decreased 543,014 from the previous 4 weeks to 3,152 claims, with 293 initial claims filed. This program ended on 9/4/21.
Federal Public Policy
Capital Building_ Washington DC
Democrats Near a Deal on Infrastructure

This morning President Biden outlined a framework for a deal to enact the Build Back Better Act (budget reconciliation). The overall spending in the package was cut in half from the original $3.5 trillion level to about $1.75 trillion. Many programs were cut and/or dropped entirely from the package, including workforce funding which was reduced to about $40 billion. As additional details emerge, including how the workforce funding would be allocated, MWA will send out additional updates.
This framework still needs to signed off on by the House Democratic caucus. However, if all sides agree, a broader package could be voted on and adopted in the coming weeks. Click here for a fact sheet outlining this framework.

Senate Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill

On October 18th, Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee released their remaining nine appropriations bills, including the Labor, HHS, Education spending bill.

See here for a comparison to the FY22 House Labor, HHS proposal. As expected, the Senate bill is lower on workforce generally but can provide a sense of potential federal funding ranges for the next fiscal year. It is important to note that this was not negotiated with Senate Republicans so it is unlikely to become law. The annual appropriations process is very much up in the air as programs are temporarily only funded through December 3rd.
Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) has been a helpful tool for many organizations in retaining employees and covering payroll costs amid pandemic-related economic uncertainty. Initially authorized through the CARES Act to encourage nonprofit and for-profit businesses to keep employees on their payroll through 2020, ERTC was extended through the end of 2021 in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

In addition, last December Congress expanded the program to allow an applicant who had previously received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to also be eligible for ERTC. Organizations that have not yet done so are encouraged to review whether they are eligible for ERTC. Unless the program is ended earlier through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, organizations will be able to access ERTC until December 31, 2021. See here for more information.
12th Annual Jobs and Workforce Summit Draws Hundreds to Discuss Equitable Economic Recovery
Yesterday, the Workforce Solutions Group, of which MWA is an E-Team member, held its 12th Annual Jobs and Workforce Summit. More than 300 participants gathered virtually to hear from a number of federal, state and non-profit policy and business leaders, and youth organizers.

Click here to view the program book. To see the conversation on twitter, follow #MAJobsSummit2021.
Racial Justice in Workforce Development Resources
October Workforce Webinar Recap: Growing the Child Care Workforce Pipeline with The Care Institute
On Tuesday, October 19th The Care Institute (TCI) led our latest Workforce Webinar Professional Learning Session. TCI has been running a pilot program in Boston in partnership with JVS Boston and Bunker Hill Community College to recruit, train, and place child care workers. With Mandy Townsend and Kim Lucas, the TCI team shared their strategy for success and plans for taking this model to other communities across Massachusetts.

Join us for our November Workforce Webinar on 11/16 at 3PM with Massachusetts Access to Recovery (ATR) and Advocates for Human Potential as they discuss how ATR focuses on employment as tool to enhance and sustain a person’s recovery from substance use. Click here to register.
MWA participated in a #TalkAboutWork twitter chat, hosted by WorkingNation, focusing on the importance of words as we talk about workforce development issues. Click here to read a recap of the chat, including some of MWA's responses.
The Mass Taxpayers Foundation recently developed a brief with recommendations for the use of the state's share of ARPA funds. One of their priorities was funding workforce development and training, in particular the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, Career Technical Initiative, Learn to Earn, expansion of the English for Advancement Program, and career navigators across the MassHire system. Click here to read the brief and here for links to presentations from a virtual forum they held on 10/14 featuring the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Urban Institute. A link to the recording on YouTube can be found here.
We want to welcome the new Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium Executive Director, Maryanne Ham. Maryanne has a long and impressive career in the Massachusetts Technical School arena, as a teacher and a senior administrator at Minuteman High School. 
MWA Member Teri Anderson, Executive Director of the MassHire Franklin-Hampshire Career Center, was quoted in this recent article about the labor market in the Pioneer Valley and the challenges employers are facing. Click here to read the article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Farewell to Longtime MassHire Bristol Colleague Beth Viveiros
Beth Viveiros, Director of the MassHire Bristol Career Centers, retired from service on September 30th. Beth was an essential staff person in the MA Career Center System for more than 40 years. She started as a data entry clerk and quickly rose through the ranks in many progressively responsible positions including oversight of the Youth Connections office and all youth services for many years. In 2019 she became the MassHire Bristol Career Center Director. Her colleagues were always amazed when customers would walk into the Career Centers and Beth would instantly remember who they were and how the Career Center had helped them, although 10 years or more may have passed between visits. Her colleagues at MassHire Bristol and across the MassHire workforce system will always remember her care and concern for the customer and her incredible work ethic. We wish Beth well in her retirement!

We also welcome Sally Pais as the new Director of the MassHire Bristol Career Centers! We look forward to working with Sally in her new role.
JVS Boston Webinar on Job Quality: An Equitable and Smart Strategy for Employers in this Tight Labor Market
On Monday, November 8th at 12PM, Mandy Townsend of JVS Boston will be joined by Sarah Kalloch of The Good Jobs Institute and Meghan Cummings of the Cincinnati Women's Fund for a conversation with local employers and JVS clients to learn more about improving job quality. This forum culminates in inviting participants to join a 10 Day Job Quality Challenge in which they have short daily assignments and an optional Friday coffee chat. Participants are eligible for a prize for participation: a coaching engagement with the JVS team on improving a pillar of their choosing if they take the JVS Job Quality survey. 

Click here to register.
On Tuesday, November 16th from 4:30-6:30 Tech/Hire Boston will be holding a virtual job fair for all youth, young adults and adults interested in tech careers through alternate training and education programs. Click here to learn more and register as a job seeker.
MWA's Partner in the Workforce Solutions Group, the Mass Business Roundtable, released their Talent Agenda to Drive Massachusetts Competitiveness. Among the key takeaways they heard after more than 60 conversations with their members was the call for talent—"there is a war to attract and retain talent, a need to develop talent, and an opportunity to promote diverse talent."

Click here to read the 2021 Agenda.
2021 MassHire Day Award Finalists Share Best Practices with Colleagues in Several Workshops

MWA, in partnership with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, MassHire Department of Career Services and the MassHire State Workforce Board, hosted three workshop sessions featuring the impressive work of four of the 2021 MassHire Award finalists from across the system. In last month's newsletter we highlighted the first two workshops.

On October 7th, Jibrael Younis, Operations Manager of MassHire Central Career Centers, shared what he and his team learning about serving employers in a virtual world during the pandemic. This work was recognized as a finalist for the MassHire Award category of Ingenuity.

On October 14th, MassHire Lowell Career Center's Janet O'Brien, Senior Career Advisor and Supervisor, and Kathleen Dupont, Career Advisor, shared details about their work using a retention grant to provide advanced services to disadvantaged customers during the pandemic. This work earned them the 2021 MassHire Award for Respect. You can read more about their work in this blog post.

Click here to learn more about the great work recognized for Collaboration, and here for the finalists in Reliability. Follow our blog for future posts highlighting those recognized for Ingenuity and Living MassHire.
MassHire North Central Career Center Opens Newly Renovated Space
Congratulations to MassHire North Central Career Center on their newly renovated space in Leominster! Besides the furniture and layout, they upgraded the computer system, wiring, security cameras, technology and more. Jeff Roberge, Executive Director of the MassHire North Central Workforce Board said, “It is completely state of the art. We can offer in person and virtual trainings and workshops, broadcast our trainings, and so much more.”

Click here to read more about the reopening in an article in the Sentinel and Enterprise.
There are so many job postings and funding announcements, so we moved our News from Around the Sector section to our website, where you can access the news, jobs, funding announcements and more throughout the month. Go to:
MWA is on social media! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest workforce news and updates.