Their Old Jobs Gone, Unemployed Workers Use COVID Relief Funds to Retrain for New Positions

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Two massive spending programs pushed through the US Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic Cares Act (2020) and american rescue plan (2021) – being used by states and local governments to retrain workers for the job market after the pandemic.

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Pandemic fuels highest US unemployment rate 14.8% in April 2020 — Since job data collection began in the United States in 1948. And for some of the unemployed, in the hardest-hit industries like leisure and hospitality, returning to their jobs is not an option.

“The programs are designed using the money from the CARES Act – the COVID funds – to really try to get individuals who have been affected by COVID-19, in terms of employment and opportunity, to receive training and retraining. to do, or new training, so that they can be prepared for different career paths,” says Darren Blackston, executive director of adult and continuing education at Delaware State University.


Delaware launched a job retraining initiative using $15 million the state received through the CARES Act. Blackston says retraining has focused on information systems, business (any occupation that requires advanced training rather than a college degree) and health care.

“We have nursing assistant programs, we have medical billing and coding, we have labs,” Blackston says. “We have all those things. If they want to get a nursing degree, they have the opportunity to do so through our degree side of the program. So, whatever they are looking for, we make sure that We should be able to provide that training.”

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free community college

In Michigan, COVID-19 essential workers — from health care providers and grocery store workers to those carrying supplies or trash — were offered free community college. NS the program was funded By the CARES Act.

“The pickup has been fast and heavy and has a very rapid impact, because these people are now enrolled in community college,” says John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center. “And they’re going to get a skill that allows them to take on jobs that exist, which are in great demand for workers and employees in a lot of sectors. And therefore, it allows them to be equipped quickly. ”

Former restaurant supervisor Brian Stauffer (left) applies for Futures for Frontliners, a job training initiative announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (right) to learn how to weld, August 2021. (Photo courtesy Grand Rapids Community College)

Austin says COVID relief dollars are being used to strengthen aging infrastructure in Michigan and the Midwest, including the lack of digital access. Training in the state focuses on health care jobs as well as information systems, but also new robotic delivery services – some developed by headquarter automakers.

“You will need retraining. You have to learn to program the computer and do the manual work. And so, we see with this recession, just like after the Great Recession (2007-2009), that 99% Jobs that pay a decent salary require some sort of post-secondary credential or previous high school training,” Austin says. “And so is the case with this pandemic-induced recession. It is.”

hospitality opportunities

Alhaghi Dumfa has been laid off from her chef job at a Los Angeles-area hotel after the pandemic hit, but says a program funded by COVID relief money helped her get back on her feet .

“I got a call back at work,” Dumfa says, “and get an opportunity to work on the senior meal program that we’re doing right now with Los Angeles County, where we serve about 10,000 meals each week to senior citizens. . , people who are affected by the pandemic, are homeless, survivors of sexual assault and trafficking.”

Alhaghi Dumpha (right) helps prepare meals for the Senior Meal Program at the Academy of Hospitality Training in Los Angeles, California. (Photo courtesy Edin Forman, HTA)

Dumfa says the job opportunity was made possible thanks to a training program offered by Unite Here Local Eleven, the Food Service and Hospitality Workers union. According to Edin Forman, executive director of the association’s Hospitality Training Academy, the senior dining program keeps cooks and delivery people up and running, hotel kitchens up and running, and provides healthy meals to seniors and other groups.

“So far, we’ve received more than $50 million in government funding to provide those services. And we’ve got 1,100 workers back to work, and we’ve had over 10,000 individuals since April of 2020.” The money comes from the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act, and the state government of California, says Forman. The money covers training tuition, transportation, and child care.

Once the program is over, Forman says the academy will help transfer trainees to other jobs, including those higher up in the hospitality industry.

technology jobs

The Information and Engineering Technology Division at Community College (NOVA) of Northern Virginia has also received federal and state relief funds to train displaced people and others to fill in-demand tech jobs.

“We are able to give approximately $22 million to our students through that support,” says Chad Knights, Nova’s Vice President of Information and Engineering Technologies.

Northern Virginia Community College’s Information and Engineering Technologies Division received federal and state relief funds to train displaced people and others to fill in-demand tech jobs. (Photo by M. Burke/Granthshala)

According to Knights, the school provides training in cloud computing technology and connects its students with industry partners in Northern Virginia.

“We are having trouble keeping students on the program because really, the minute they make it through our certificate program, they are stripped of internships and local positions,” he says.

Students train in engineering technology, learn to maintain computer servers, manage power distribution and network connectivity, which has become even more important with the rise in telework since the pandemic hit. Other students study software development and data analysis.

Blackston says the ultimate goal of job retraining is to put these workers in a solid position to face future difficulties.

“What COVID uncovered was a great deal of inequality in terms of wealth inequality in our society,” Blackston says. “And so, these jobs across the board will help individuals really improve their stance, and with their families, be able to get a living wage, but (also) get some stability when we have issues like COVID come to the fore.”

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