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: FY21 Budget Signed, FY22 Process Begins, Conference Committee Updates, Governor Files UI Tax Bill to Limit Rate Increase, State Data Updates, FY21 Skills Capital Grants Awarded, Federal Budget and Stimulus Agreement Reached
  • MWA Updates: Recent Workforce Webinar, Racial Equity in Workforce Development Resources, Upcoming Meetings
  • Member Updates: MassHire Greater Brockton, Southeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, MassHire Career Center Procurements, 2021 MassHire Award Nominations Open
  • News From Around the Sector - Jobs, Funding, Research, Training, and more
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State Public Policy
State House
FY21 Budget Signed with Strong Investments in Workforce Development

On Friday December 11th, Governor Baker signed the FY21 budget. He returned several line item vetoes/amendments to the legislature, though no workforce development line items were included in those changes. The only major policy issue passed with the budget was the ROE Act, which codifies abortion rights in state law, allows abortions after 24 weeks in more cases, and creates a process for women under 16 to secure the procedure without parental consent. Governor Baker vetoed portions of the Act but the House and Senate overrode those vetoes last week.

The final $46 billion FY21 budget includes the following workforce development related investments:
  • Career Centers: $5M
  • Career Technical Institutes (CTI): $4M
  • YouthWorks: $20M
  • Connecting Activities: $6M ($6.4M w/earmarks)
  • WCTF: $10M
  • Learn to Earn: $950K
  • Re-entry: $1.5M
  • Apprenticeships: $500K
  • Manufacturing: $2.5M ($2.6M w/earmarks)
  • Employment Program for Young Adults with Disabilities: $250K

MWA is grateful for the legislature's commitment to workforce development during this time, particularly the MassHire Career Center system, with an additional investment of $1M to their line item. MWA will continue our advocacy as the FY22 budget process gets underway.
Governor Baker Files Legislation to Limit Unemployment Insurance Increases for Businesses
Last Friday, Governor Baker filed legislation to limit the increase in taxes Massachusetts businesses would face to fund the state unemployment system over the next two years. The unprecedented surge in demand for unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic has put the unemployment insurance trust fund in the red, relying on billions of dollars borrowed from the federal government to keep benefits flowing to unemployed workers.

The bill would freeze the rates employers must pay at their current schedule, replacing a nearly 60 percent increase in the average per-employee cost in 2021 with a more modest increase of about 17 percent. Employers have been concerned about the UI tax increase for months and argued that it could hinder their ability to hire or rehire workers.

Click here to read the bill and click here to read a WWLP article summarizing the proposal.
FY22 Revenue Hearing Estimates 1% - 8.8% Decline in Tax Receipts

Last week, the state's Revenue Commissioner, local economists and fiscal observers testified to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means regarding "cautiously optimistic" revenue estimates for the FY22 budget process. Estimates ranged from a low of $29.6B to a high of $31.9B. The optimism was based on assumptions that included successful widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by the summer and another round of federal stimulus by early 2021. All agreed that economic recovery was dependent on the trajectory of the pandemic over the next 6 months. Click here to read more about the hearing.
Update on Conference Committees

With 10 business days left to the current legislative session, which was extended to January 5th, legislators still have economic development, climate change, transportation and health care bills in conference committee. The legislature passed police reform legislation, but Governor Baker sent the bill back with amendments, specifically in regard to maintaining control of training standards within the executive branch/EOPSS, and allowing no-knock warrants and facial recognition software to be used in certain instances. The legislature has yet to take the bill back up and return it to the Governor's desk. If these bills are not passed by the end of the session, they will have to be refiled in the new session starting January 6th.
Baker-Polito Administration Awards $11.7M in FY21 Skills Capital Grants, Releases FY22 RFP
The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced $11.7 million in Skills Capital Grants awarded to 47 educational institutions across the Commonwealth to update equipment and expand student enrollment in programs that provide career education. Twelve of the organizations are receiving a Skills Capital Grant for the first time. Schools have used Skills Capital Grants to expand their enrollment of students learning skills in high-demand occupations, enabling more than 16,200 additional students to enroll in educational programs prioritized by employers across Massachusetts. Click here to read more about the grant recipients in the press release.

Click here for the FY22 Skills Capital Grant RFP. Submissions are due March 24th at 3PM.
November Unemployment Rate and Unemployment Claims Data
Last Friday, the state released the unemployment rate for November 2020. Massachusetts saw its seasonally adjusted rate decline .7 percentage points to 6.7 percent from the revised October rate of 7.4 percent, the same as the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent. Since November 2019 the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts has lost nearly 338K jobs (CES data series).

The MA labor force participation rate, 63.1 percent, is down 4.8 percentage points from the prior year, as the labor force declined nearly 44K from October. The continued decline in labor force participation is a counter weight to the seemingly good news about a lower unemployment rate. Click here to read the state press release with more detail by industry. Local unemployment estimates will be released on 12/22 and the local press release can be found here.

Last week DUA released the most recent initial claims for the week ending 12/17/2020 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 15th, 1,705,465 initial claims for unemployment have been filed in Massachusetts.
  • Since April 20th, more than 894K people filed for PUA.
  • Since May 21st, nearly 344K people filed for PEUC.
  • Since September 6th, the first week that claims were filed under the federal/state Extended Benefits (EB) program, more than 34K individuals have filed an EB initial claim.
  • Continued claims continue to decline as claimants exhaust their regular UI benefits. For the week ending 12/12 they were down 5.6 percent from the previous week at 161,046.
State Works to Identify Fraudulent Unemployment Claims
Criminal enterprises in possession of stolen personal information from earlier, unrelated commercial data breaches continue to attempt to file large numbers of illegitimate unemployment claims through the Massachusetts unemployment system. This problem is also occurring in other states. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance issued a press release earlier this month detailing their work to date identifying fraudulent claims to both the regular UI online program and the new PUA program. Sixty-one percent of all PUA claims filed have been denied, while 13 percent of UI online claims have been denied. As of 11/23/20 more than $242M in fraudulent payments have been recovered. Click here to read the press release.
Federal Public Policy
Congress Finalizes FY21 Budget and Additional COVID Stimulus Deal

Yesterday evening, the House and Senate announced an agreement on both the FY21 budget and additional economic relief in response to the pandemic-induced recession. While text was not immediately available, the bill was expected to provide $600 stimulus payments to millions of American adults earning up to $75,000 and revive lapsed supplemental federal unemployment benefits (PUC) at $300 a week for 11 weeks, half the amount provided by the original stimulus law. It would also continue and expand benefits for gig workers and freelancers (PUA), and it would extend federal payments for people whose regular benefits have expired (PEUC) for three months.

The measure would also provide more than $284 billion for businesses and revive the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that lapsed over the summer. It would expand eligibility under the program for nonprofits, local newspapers and radio and TV broadcasters and allocate $15 billion for performance venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural institutions. The agreement is also expected to provide billions of dollars for testing, tracing and vaccine distribution, as well as $82 billion for colleges and schools, $13 billion in increased nutrition assistance, $7 billion for broadband access, $10 billion for child care assistance and $25 billion in rental assistance. The agreement is also expected to extend an eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the year for one month (end of January 2021). Democrats also secured an extension for state and local governments to spend money allocated under the March stimulus law, ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline.

The agreement provides some new targeted funds for state and local government functions that will help with their overall budget burdens. These funds include the emergency resources for schools, $27 billion for state highways, transit agencies, Amtrak and airports, $22 billion for the health-related expenses of state, local, tribal and territorial government, and an additional year of eligibility for expenses under the CARES Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The package also includes legislation to end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care and provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave.

An additional $1.4 trillion funds federal government agencies and social safety net programs through the end of FY21 (end of Sept. 2021). WIOA was expected to be funded at FY20 levels.

Congress passed an emergency one day stop-gap spending bill in order to give them time to finalize the bill text, with plans to pass it in both chambers and send to the President for signature Monday night (12/21).

Click here to read more from the New York Times or here for the Washington Post (may be subject to a paywall).
State Budget 101 Workforce Webinar with MassBudget
On 12/14, MassBudget staff Monique Ching and Anastasia Martinez offered an informative webinar on how the state budget works in Massachusetts. They shared how the normal process and timeline were thrown off by the pandemic. In addition, they explained where our state's revenue comes from and debunked the old "Taxachusetts" moniker. They also shared their Budget Browser tool, which helps the public track budget items over time.

Our next Workforce Webinar: Trauma Informed Practice and Workforce Development with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions is scheduled for 1/11 at 3PM. Click here to register.
Racial Justice in Workforce Development Resources
MWA's January and February Calendar of Events

We hope to see you "virtually" at one of the events below! Questions? Reach out to Raija.

  • Happy New Year! Welcome 2021!
  • 1.11: Workforce Webinar: Trauma Informed Practice and Workforce Development with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (Click here to register)
  • 1.12: Workforce Board Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 1.13: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 1.27: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)

  • 2.9: Workforce Board Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 2.10: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 2.16: Workforce Webinar: Building Good Jobs with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, San Diego Partnership, MassHire Boston Career Center and MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board
  • 2.24: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)

Are you interested in becoming a member of MWA? Click here to learn more about the benefits to membership and contact us to learn more.
MassHire Greater Brockton Career Center Cited As Integral to Local Woman's Success
Bri Nichols, a young woman whose first job was at MassHire Greater Brockton Career Center (formerly known as Career Works), shared with the Brockton Enterprise how her supervisor, Mary Osorio, supported her personal and career growth while she was facing many challenges including teen pregnancy and homelessness. Bri recently started a local non-profit, Resilient Roses Respite, that provides volunteer opportunities, mentoring and workshops for youth to learn skills for the future. Click here to read more.
Southeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium/MassHire Training Participant Shares Gratitude for Support
In this letter, from a current participant in the integrated photonics certificate program at Stonehill College, a young woman shares how MassHire Greater Brockton YouthWorks staff and Stonehill College faculty encouraged and supported her in following her goals toward a family sustaining career. Click here to read the letter.
RFPs for MassHire Career Center Operator and Service Providers Released
MassHire Workforce Boards are required to periodically procure for their region's Career Center services. Please see below for links to several MassHire Workforce Boards' RFPs for career center operator and/or service provider.

2021 MassHire Awards Nominations Open

It's time for nominations for the 2021 MassHire Awards! The 2021 MassHire Awards are in support of the MassHire brand, mission and vision. Awards will confer monetary prizes for MassHire organizations across five categories for exceptional innovations in workforce service delivery. Nominations are due by February 11, 2021. Click here for the issuance and here for the nomination package.
  • RFP - The Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium is looking for a Strategic Planning Consultant. Click here to learn more and submit.

  • RFQ - The MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board is looking for education/training providers that can provide manufacturing training. Click here to learn more and submit.

  • Job Opportunity - The Mass General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement is hiring an Economic Mobility Program Manager to focus on policy and systems change in workforce development in Chelsea and Revere. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board is hiring a Deputy Director and Fund Developer. Click here to learn more about the position and how to apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire North Shore Workforce Board is hiring for a new Career Center Executive Director to replace Mark Whitmore upon his retirement. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - Commonwealth Corporation is hiring for several positions: a Program Manager for Sector Strategies (new listing), Workforce Training Fund Program Coordinator, Youth Pathways Instructional Coach, Manager of Marketing and Communications, and Employer Outreach Specialist for Metro Northeast. Click here to view the postings and to apply.

  • Member Highlight - MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board and Career Center were featured in this Daily Hampshire Gazette article talking to local legislators about the work they are doing helping unemployed workers find training and jobs during the pandemic.

  • Blog - Commonwealth Corporation shares key learning and highlights from the 2020 summer YouthWorks season. Click here to read more.

  • News - MassDevelopment's new President and CEO will be Daniel Rivera, Mayor of Lawrence. He will step down as mayor on January 8th to take the new position. Click here for the press release.

  • News - A new partnership has been developed among 14 community foundations across Massachusetts in the wake of the pandemic, focusing on partnering with local non-profits to strengthen their programs and capacities to respond to the crisis. Click here to learn more about the Massachusetts Community Foundations Partnership.

  • News - The Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently authored an op-ed in Commonwealth Magazine urging state leaders to invest in child care. Click here to read more.

  • News - New polling research from the Strada Education Network finds many Americans feel stuck professionally and aren't sure that further education could help. Click here for the Inside Higher Ed article.

  • Economic Report - The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released the latest summary of the Beige Book, which offers an overview of economic conditions in the New England region. Click here to read the summary.

  • Research - Fewer mothers and fathers in U.S. are working due to COVID-19 downturn; those at work have cut hours. Click here to read the Pew Research article.

  • Research - The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently released a Youth Data Portrait. Click here to read more.

  • Research - Boston Indicators, the UMass Donahue Institute and UMass Amherst shared their latest COVID-19 Data on racial, housing and income disparities across both waves of the pandemic. Click here to read more and see the data.

  • Research - New National Skills Coalition brief explores the best ways for workers to acquire industry-specific skills. Click here to read more and download the report.

  • Research - The New York Times reports on research that shows up to 30 million people in the U.S. have the skills to earn 70% more. Click here for the article (may be subject to a paywall).
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