Connecting state and local government leaders
White House figures suggest over $40 billion from the pandemic relief law could go to workforce development, with a sizable chunk of investment through state and local programs.
States, localities, territories and tribes are looking to plow over $13 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act toward workforce investments, the White House said Wednesday.
That sum includes about $9 billion from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund—the $350 billion pot of state and local government aid in the pandemic relief law. The spending is going toward a variety of workforce development programs, including some that involve partnerships with labor groups and premium pay for workers critical to the coronavirus response.
The Biden administration described the spending as either “committed or proposed,” so the totals could change. The White House effort to tout the workforce initiatives comes as Republicans are blaming ARPA for fueling rising inflation, and taking aim at state and local uses of the federal aid that they see as wasteful.
At a half-day summit on Wednesday, the White House featured state and local leaders from across the country to highlight how their communities are using—or plan to use—ARPA funds for workforce programs.
“In our workforce development especially, we depend on collaborations with state and local government, and county government,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Employers, large and small, need to be at the table because they’re the ones looking for workers.”
To date, $40 billion in ARPA funds overall have been put toward workforce programs, according to Gene Sperling, the White House ARPA coordinator. But that figure is a conservative one, he added.
“We expect the final number to be tens of billions of dollars higher, but we wanted to give a sense of what is happening in literally over 1,000 jurisdictions,” Sperling said.
The summit focused on three key areas of workforce development: establishing partnerships and programs to expand the country’s infrastructure workforce; bolstering the ranks of care and public health employees; and making employment more accessible to underserved populations.
Projects at a Glance
Franklin County, Ohio, where Columbus is located, committed $11 million to job training assistance programs, including $2 million for its Building Futures pre-apprenticeship program. The 12-week program aims to help low-income residents pursue careers in fields like ironwork, electrician trades, carpentry, painting and plumbing.
Building Futures was developed in partnership with the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, Columbus NAACP, and the Columbus Urban League, and aims to recruit participants from populations that have historically been underrepresented in trades.
In Manchester, New Hampshire, the city put $6 million toward its Community Health Worker program, a joint effort between Manchester’s health and police departments.
Program staff—who, collectively, speak 11 languages in addition to English—are assigned to neighborhoods across the city and work with community groups and organizations to meet the needs and address the concerns of residents in those places.
The Harvard School of Public Health will help provide occupational health and safety training as well as technical assistance for the program.
Localities are also investing ARPA dollars to address barriers that prevent some people from entering the workforce, such as homelessness, disabilities or past criminal convictions.
Memphis, Tennessee is planning to spend more than $20 million on workforce programs, with an emphasis on “disconnected youth” between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working or attending school.
The full summary of ARPA-funded workforce initiatives the White House issued can be found here.
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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