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: End of Session Recap, State Data Updates, New Business Resources
  • MWA Updates: Recent Workforce Webinar, Racial Equity in Workforce Development Resources, Upcoming Meetings, Meeting with Congressman McGovern, MASSCAP Virtual Workshop on Job Readiness
  • Member Updates: 2021 MassHire Award Nominations Due 2/11, U.S. DOL Grant Award to Partners in Central Mass, WCTF Grant Announcement
  • News From Around the Sector - Jobs, Funding, Research, Training, and more
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State Public Policy
State House
2019/2020 Legislative Session Comes to an End

After an unprecedented legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-2020 Massachusetts legislative session came to an end in the early morning hours of January 6th, 2021. In a typical 2-year legislative session most legislation and anything substantive must be passed before or by July 31st of the even year. However, given the pandemic, uncertainty related to revenues, and the need for more time to pass multiple important pieces of legislation, the Legislature extended its session until January 5th, 2021. This extension gave legislators additional time to not only pass the FY21 budget but to address legislation that was in conference (economic development, transportation, healthcare, police reform, and climate change) and take up any necessary bills relating to COVID-19.

Numerous significant bills were passed by the Legislature in December and over the last two days of the session in January including:
  • FY21 budget 
  • Police reform (An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the commonwealth) Signed by the Governor on December 31st.
  • Healthcare (An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first) Signed by the Governor on January 1st.
  • Climate change (An Act creating a next generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy) Vetoed by the Governor on January 14th.
  • Transportation (An Act authorizing and accelerating transportation investment) Signed and vetoed in part by the Governor on January 15th.
  • Economic development (An Act enabling partnerships for growth) Signed and vetoed in part by the Governor on January 14th.

Click here to visit MWA's blog for a summary of the Economic Development legislation.
2021/2022 Legislative Session
Hours after the 2019/2020 session came to an end, the 2021/2022 legislative session commenced. New representatives and senators were sworn in, with two new senators joining the Senate and over a dozen new representatives joining the House. There is also a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ron Mariano, with Senate President Karen Spilka returning for another session.

Over the next few weeks we expect the Legislature to re-pass the climate change legislation that Governor Baker vetoed at the end of last session and possibly take action on the unemployment insurance bill the Governor refiled. Although the bill filling deadline has been extended into February, budget season will once again commence when the Governor files his proposal at the end of this month. Finally, leadership positions and committee chairs should be announced in the coming weeks, with MWA keeping a close eye on who the chairs of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee will be.
Governor Baker Re-Files Legislation to Limit UI Increases for Businesses

Governor Baker refiled legislation to limit the increase in unemployment insurance taxes Massachusetts businesses would face over the next two years.

The bill would freeze the rates employers 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.
Mass Internet Connect

On January 5th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced three new state programs to increase internet connectivity statewide, including a new subsidy to assist job seekers in the MassHire system that are facing technology barriers.

The new program, Mass Internet Connect, is being launched in partnership with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

The internet subsidies and technology support will help keep job seekers connected to critical online resources and job search tools. Click here to read the press release and learn more.
More Help on the Way for MA Businesses
Earlier this month, the Baker-Polito administration made available an additional $668M to support MA businesses through new and existing programs. Through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), these funds will target sectors experiencing the most significant economic hardship and loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Click here to learn more.

In order to simplify the process of applying for many of these grant programs, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) launched the Community One Stop for Growth, a joint application process to allow applicants, including municipalities, public entities, nonprofits, and businesses, to use a single portal to access ten different grant programs. Click here to see the portal and learn more.
Keep the Doors Open Program to Help Businesses Stay Open
The Massachusetts Center for Employee Ownership and the Mass Office of Business Development are working with the ICA Group to implement a program to help businesses that are struggling to stay open due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Keep the Doors Open they can help business owners determine whether sharing or transferring ownership to employees could save the business (also known as an ‘employee buyout’). Owners can choose to stay involved while sharing the responsibility of running the business with a larger team, or retire while keeping the business alive in the community. Click here to learn more about the program and help employers connect to it.
December Unemployment Rate and Unemployment Claims Data, New Federal Programs and Boston Fed Economic Outlook for 2021
Last Friday, the state released the unemployment rate for December 2020. Massachusetts saw its seasonally adjusted rate increase 0.7 percentage points to 7.4 percent from the revised November rate of 6.7 percent, also higher than the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent.

The MA labor force participation rate, 64.5 percent, is down 3.4 percentage points from the prior year. The labor force increased 70,400 from November. Click here to read the state press release with more detail by industry. Local unemployment estimates will be released on 1/26 and the local press release can be found here.

Last week DUA released the most recent initial claims for the week ending 1/16/2020 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, 1,831,832 initial claims for unemployment have been filed in Massachusetts.
  • Continued claims for the week ending 1/16 were nearly unchanged from the previous week at 164,742.
  • Since April 20th, more than 913K people filed for PUA.
  • Since May 21st, more than 382K people filed for PEUC.
  • Since September 6th, the first week that claims were filed under the federal/state Extended Benefits (EB) program, nearly 525K individuals have filed an EB initial claim.

The recent federal Continued Assistance Act included a new program called Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC). This is an optional program for states to administer offers $100 in supplemental income to certain individuals with self-employment income but who are also eligible for and receiving regular unemployment compensation through 3/14/2021. Those receiving PUA benefits are not eligible. The Act also reauthorized the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program to provide $300 per week in supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment beginning after 12/26/2021 through 3/14/2021. Click here for Unemployment Insurance Program Letter from DOL.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren offered an optimistic economic outlook for 2021 at a 1/12 Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce virtual meeting. His optimism, however, hinges upon successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic not worsening. Click here to view the remarks along with his powerpoint and charts.
Federal Public Policy
Capital Building_ Washington DC
Congratulations to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
In January, then President-Elect Biden selected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be his Secretary of Labor. While Mayor Walsh will need to be confirmed by the Senate, his appointment presents a great opportunity for the greater Massachusetts workforce community.

COVID Relief and Government Funding Bill
In our last newsletter we reported about the omnibus bill Congress passed at the end of 2020. See below for some additional details and funding levels:
  • Department of Labor: $12.5 billion in discretionary appropriations for DOL, an increase of $122 million above the 2020 enacted levels. This amount includes (but is not limited to):
  • $9.4 billion for the Employment and Training Administration, an increase of $99 million above the 2020 enacted level. Within this amount, the bill includes:
  • $2.8 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants, an increase of $26 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level.
  • $185 million for Registered Apprenticeships, an increase of $10 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level. No funding is provided for Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). New bill language is included that requires the participation of equity intermediaries and business and labor industry partner intermediaries.
  • $45 million for Strengthening Community College Training Grants, an increase of $5 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level. Funding will help meet local and regional labor market demand for a skilled workforce by providing training to workers in in-demand industries.

  • Career, Technical, and Adult Education: $2 billion for career, technical, and adult education programs, an increase of $70 million above the 2020 enacted level.

  • Payroll Protection Program (PPP)): $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, with set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions. Eligibility is also expanded to certain 501(c)(6) nonprofits.

  • Stimulus Payments: One time direct payment of $600 to those making less than $75,000 per year or couples who combine for less than $150,000 per year.

  • Additional UI payments: Additional $300/week in conjunction with extended UI benefits.

  • Rural Broadband: Invests more than $730 million in the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and healthcare services.

  • SNAP: The bill provides for $114 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP. This fully funds participation as well as the SNAP enhanced allotments authorized by the Families First Act.

  • CARES Act Extension: Extends, until December 31, 2021, the State and local funds provided under the Coronavirus Relief Fund that was included in the CARES Act.

  • Pell Grants: Eliminates the ban on individuals who are incarcerated from receiving Pell Grants at public and nonprofit institutions (for-profit institutions would not be able to award Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals) that offer prison education programs.

  • FAFSA: Simplifies the FAFSA form, significantly cutting down questions from the current 108 to 36 and replacing the expected family contribution (EFC) with a slimmed down version renamed the "Student Aid Index" (SAI). SAI would have more robust income protection allowance amounts compared to the current EFC structure.

New Executive Order on Equitable Recovery
Yesterday, President Biden issued an executive order which instructs the Secretary of DOL to make recommendations on how to allocate resources and funding to communities with inequities to ensure an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Click here to read the entire executive order.
  • Last week President Biden also issued an Executive Order focused on increased COVID-19 protections for workers, including the most vulnerable essential employees. As a result, employers can expect new guidance and requirements from the federal government on workplace safety in the coming days.
  • This order requires DOL to issue revised guidance to employers regarding workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic by February 4th. Further, the Order instructs DOL to consider whether any temporary, emergency workplace health and safety standards are necessary, including standards regarding masks in the workplace, and to issue such standards by March 15th.  Click here to read the order in its entirety.

SNAP E&T Final Rule:
Earlier this month USDA released the SNAP E&T Final Rule. The Final Rule contains many ties to SNAP E&T programming and WIOA, emphasizing the SNAP agency working with the workforce system on its state plan as well as adding subsidized employment and apprenticeship as eligible expenses. In Massachusetts, this type of collaboration and coordination between MassHire and the Department of Transitional Assistance has been occurring for years. Click here to review the Final Rule.
Trauma Informed Approaches and Workforce Development Webinar with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions
On January 11th MWA welcomed Janell Thomas, Director of Worker Success at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS), to share the process and information that went into developing a guide for employers and workforce development professionals for learning more about incorporating trauma informed practice in workforce development. Massachusetts was well represented on the advisory workgroup for the guide with MWA Associate Director Raija Vaisanen, SkillWorks Senior Program Officer Kaitlyn Bean, and Commonwealth Corporation Senior Program Manager Karen Shack all participating. The webinar was highly interactive and invited participants to imagine a future state for a truly trauma informed workforce development system. NFWS plans to release the guide in February 2021 and MWA will share it widely.

Our next Workforce Webinar: Building Good Jobs with the Public Workforce System with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, San Diego Partnership, MassHire Boston Career Center and MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board is scheduled for 2/16 at 3PM. Click here to register.
Racial Justice in Workforce Development Resources
MWA's February and March Calendar of Events

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

  • 2.1: Workforce Board Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 2.10: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 2.11: MWA Governance Committee (MWA Member Only)
  • 2.16: Workforce Webinar: Building Good Jobs with the Public Workforce System with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, San Diego Partnership, MassHire Boston Career Center and MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board (click here to register)
  • 2.24: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)

  • 3.1: Workforce Board Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 3.9: MWA Membership Committee (MWA Member Only)
  • 3.10: Career Center Council (MWA Member Only)
  • 3.16: MWA Public Policy Committee (MWA Member Only)
  • 3.16: Workforce Webinar: Helping Businesses Plan for the Future through Employee Ownership, with the ICA Group/MA Center for Employee Ownership (Save the Date!)
  • 3.19: MWA Finance Committee (MWA Member Only)
  • 3.23: MWA Board of Directors Meeting
  • 3.24: 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.
Workforce Solutions Group Meets with Congressman McGovern and other Leaders

The Workforce Solutions Group, a cross-sector workforce development advocacy coalition in Massachusetts of which MWA is a member, in partnership with the National Skills Coalition, has been scheduling meetings with the MA Congressional Delegation to ensure that investing in skills training is front of mind in future economic recovery legislation.

To date, we've met virtually with Congressman Lynch and Congressman McGovern's offices, and have plans to meet with Congresswoman Trahan this week. We are fortunate in MA to have supportive leaders in Washington, D.C. Congressman McGovern, Chair of the House Rules Committee, is committed to an equitable economic recovery for Massachusetts and the rest of the country.

Click here for the National Skills Coalition's talking points on workforce development for these meetings with congressional leaders.
Check out National Skills Coalition's new website here!
MASSCAP Offers Workshop on Supporting Job Readiness in the Time of COVID-19

What does it look like to support people entering or re-entering the labor market in these uncertain and ever-changing times? This interactive session will delve into lessons from MASSCAP's research-based Job Readiness and Employability Development Curriculum, with a focus on developing participants' soft skills such as time management, listening skills, and working on a team. You'll learn how to integrate effective activities virtually, during one-on-one case management/coaching sessions, during workshops, or in a classroom.

As a result of this workshop, you'll learn:
  • Which adults might benefit from the curriculum
  • How it can be used remotely and in-person
  • Information on targeted job readiness topics most relevant given COVID-19, a slack and evolving labor market, and a focus on addressing structural racism
  • Activities you, your team, or your program can implement within the next month.
Date: Thursday, February 11th 3PM - 4:30PM
Target Audience: Staff from CAA's, MassHire Career Centers, and other organizations supporting unemployed and underemployed clients
Presenter: Martha Oesch, Curriculum Co-Developer/Trainer, Principal at Oesch Consulting
Cost: $35 for MA Community Action Agencies, $45 for non-CAA registrants
2021 MassHire Awards Nominations Due Feb. 11th!

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.
MassHire Central Region and MassHire Boston/Boston PIC Partners in $10M US DOL Grant Award to Clark University in Worcester
The U.S. Department of Labor announced last week the grant award recipients for the H1-B One Workforce Program to serve individuals who are under or un-employed enter into high demand careers in IT, advanced manufacturing and transportation. Clark University was awarded $10M to develop the Tech Boost program, in partnership with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, City of Worcester, Holyoke Community College, MassHire Central Region and MassHire Boston. To read the DOL press release click here. Click here for the Worcester Business Journal article.
Baker-Polito Administration Announces $1M in Sen. Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grant Awards to Expand Training Capacity for MA Jobseekers
Yesterday, six organizations in Massachusetts were awarded 2020-2021 Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for Expanded Training Capacity & Employment Program Performance. These grants, administered by Commonwealth Corporation, will support additional seat capacity in ongoing sector-based employment programs that provide training, job placement and retention services to unemployed Massachusetts residents. These will be the first grants that incorporate an allocation from the Workforce Training Fund to complement funds from the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (now called Donnelly Workforce Success Grants). MWA member, the MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board, was one of the six awardees, and plans to use this funding to support training and job placement for jobseekers in electronics assembly/manufacturing technician jobs. Click here to read the press release.
  • Job Opportunity - The MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Board is hiring an Administrative Assistant. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - The MA Association of Community Colleges is looking for an Executive Director and a Workforce Development Director. Click here to learn more about the Executive Director position and apply. Click here to learn more about the Workforce Development Director position and apply.

  • 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 North Shore Workforce Board is hiring for a new Career Center Executive Director. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - Commonwealth Corporation is hiring for several positions: Career Development and Virtual Learning Coordinator (new), a Program Manager for Sector Strategies, and a Salesforce Nonprofit Consultant (new). Click here to view the postings and to apply.

  • Education Opportunity - The UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI), in collaboration with University Without Walls (UWW) and UMass Online (UMOL), is offering a new online leadership development certificate program. This Leadership Excellence program is for emerging leaders who need new skills and tools to implement organizational change and propel their careers forward. The five-module program provides 30 hours of hands-on learning over eight weeks in an interactive online classroom. Participants also complete two online leadership assessments and receive individualized coaching to interpret the results. Completion of this program will earn learners a certificate and is accredited to award three CEUs through UWW. To learn more and register, click here.

  • RFP - The Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium is looking for a Strategic Planning Consultant. Click here to learn more and submit.

  • Funding Opportunity - The Executive Office of Elder Affairs has issued an RFR for Older Worker Remote Employment Case Management. Click here for the RFR and here for the online COMMBUYS application and attachments. A bidders' conference is scheduled for 1/27.

  • Notice of Intent to Issue a Solicitation - The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has released a Notice of Intent to Issue a Solicitation on Expanding Access to Opportunity in the Offshore Wind Workforce. Comments can be submitted until February 12th. Click here to learn more.

  • Job Opportunities with the U.S. Census Bureau - The U.S. Census is looking for field reps in the following counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk. Click here to learn more and share with job seekers.

  • Webinar - TODAY, 1/26 1-2PM: From Incarceration to Careers: Supporting Re-Entry Success for Formerly Incarcerated Adults. Click here to learn more about this JFF hosted webinar and to register.

  • Report - MWA and MassHire Lowell Career Center were interviewed as part of information gathering for a report on hiring workers with disabilities by the WorkAbility Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. Click here to view the report.

  • Report - The Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice issued recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration's first 100 days. Click here to read more.

  • Research - The State of Washington has issued a report on its implementation of its new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Click here for the report.

  • Research - Credential Engine has issued a new report Making Sense of Credentials: A State Roadmap and Action Guide for Transparency. Click here to read more.

  • Resource - Credentials Matter is a new website from ExcelinEd and Burning Glass that looks at how aligned states are between the credentials that students earn and those that are in demand by employers. Click here to learn more.

  • Research - Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and the Mass Housing and Shelter Alliance released a study showing housing aid can reduce health costs. Click here to read more.

  • Research - The National Bureau for Economic Research released a report Why do Sectoral Employment Programs Work: Lessons from Work Advance. Click here to read the report.

  • Research - The Institute for Work and the Economy has published a recording of a recent webinar that reviews their recent research on Achieving the Promise of Work "Day After" Project. They have held conversations across the country about how to use learning from the pandemic and racial reckoning over the past year to build a more equitable economy for all. Click here for the webinar recording and here for more about the project.

  • Research - The Carsey School for Public Policy at UNH recently released a case study on Improving Staff Communication for Small Non-Profits. Click here to read more.

  • Research - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a report on Strengthening the Entry-Level Health Care Workforce. Click here to read the report.

  • News - The National Fund for Workforce Solutions has announced grant awards to four communities to create more inclusive economies by redesigning frontline jobs to help workers achieve financial resiliency and economic mobility. Click here to read more. NFWS also announced grant awards to 5 communities to address the digital divide. Click here for more on that initiative.

  • News/Research - 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. Click here for a summary of findings from their Learner Survey in 2020. On 1/27 they will be holding a webinar on The Road Ahead for Community Colleges - Examining Enrollment, Completion, Purpose and Value. Click here to register. Strada has also released a report on Bridge Builders: How Intermediaries Can Connect Education and Work in a Post-Pandemic World. Click here to read more.

  • News - The Harvard University Project on Workforce has launched a new website, here. They have also shared their new tool to help jobseekers find skill development resources called SkillBase.

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