Regional Workforce Policy Roundup: Gains for Local Workers
To the disdain of many in the Washington region, the beginning of summer brings high temperatures and oppressive humidity, but local workforce development advocates are collectively breathing a sigh of relief as summer also brings an end to the high stress of budget season.
Now that Maryland, Virginia, and the District have concluded their budget wrangling for the year, workforce advocates are celebrating some high-profile wins. Grantees of the Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative have been working hard to shine light on critical issues by providing testimony at hearings and advocating for new or improved policies that will positively impact local workers. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest workforce policy news:
The District of Columbia
- An attempt to divert $1.6 million in funding dedicated to training adult workers was scuttled and the funding secured.
- $175,000 was allocated to the Workforce investment Council to support a new taskforce dedicated to ensuring that District workers have the basic skills they need to succeed at work and an additional $340,000 was allocated to provide expanded services to adult learners with learning disabilities.
- $822,000 was allocated to the Office of the State Superintendent for Education to establish a drop-in resource center for youth trying to re-connect to school or work.
Community Foundation grantee Job Opportunities Task Force led and supported efforts in Maryland, including:
- Last year, Maryland passed landmark legislation to create a new grant opportunity—Maryland EARN, funding projects that train workers for careers in high-demand industries. This budget cycle, advocates successfully fended off a $3.6 mil reduction for EARN, working with state agencies and the House of Representatives to avoid all cuts and maintain level funding of $4.5 million for the program.
- A collaboration of local business, nonprofit, and government agencies, including Job Opportunities Task Force, successfully advocated for a major expansion of job readiness training available to Prince George’s County Youth. More than 2000 youth will have access to expanded services offered through Prince George’s Community College and Prince George’s County Public Schools.
Community Foundation grantee the Commonwealth Institute for Northern Virginia has led and supported efforts across Virginia during a difficult budget and legislative season, including:
- Strengthening Virginia’s Earned Income Credit (EIC):The first bill signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe extended enhancements to the state’s EIC until 2017, helping 114,000 Virginians keep more of their earnings. These enhancements include increasing the income levels at which married couples are eligible for the credit and adding a new tier of benefits for families with 3 or more children (previously the credit topped off at 2 children).
- Passing Work-Sharing Legislation: After three years of advocacy, bipartisan legislation was passed to implement a work-sharing program in Virginia. This program allows eligible businesses to reduce the hours of their employees instead of resorting to layoffs during an economic downturn. Affected employees are then able to draw partial unemployment benefits to help offset the wage losses from their reduced hours. Work-sharing allows business to keep their skilled workers and helps workers stay employed.
- Funding to Expand Career Pathways: Workforce development advocates successfully worked with officials from the administration to include $1 million of new funding for regional sector strategies and career pathways programs in the Governor’s budget proposal. While this funding was ultimately eliminated by the General Assembly during budget negotiations, advocates are hopeful that the Governor’s support could yield additional opportunities in the future.
- Contribute to the Community Foundation’s workforce development efforts through a gift to the Community Foundation’s Leadership Fund.