Sweeping COVID Aid Offers Immediate Relief; Long-Term Workforce Investment Still Needed
JFF applauds this week’s passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which will bring immediate relief to millions of Americans who have suffered the most during the twin economic and health crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signed into law by President Biden on March 11, the act provides $1.9 trillion in funding for a wide range of measures designed to help the country respond to and rebound from the pandemic. While it clearly reflects an understanding of the critical need to move rapidly to get the country back on its feet, it cannot be the end of the federal government’s work to bring about a truly equitable economic recovery.
[Funding for training and reemployment] is especially critical for the people who are suffering the greatest economic hardships—workers in low-wage jobs and individuals with no postsecondary credentials.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key provisions of the new law:
- Pandemic relief: Tens of billions of dollars to fund coronavirus testing and contact tracing, an expansion of the public health workforce, and vaccine distribution.
- Unemployment insurance: An extension of $300 weekly unemployment benefits until September 6.
- Stimulus checks: $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans earning less than $75,000 per year.
- State and local assistance: $350 billion in aid to state and local governments.
- Support for education: $168 billion for schools and colleges dealing with the educational impacts of the pandemic.
- Child care: Almost $40 billion for child care providers and a significant expansion of the child tax credit for millions of Americans.
- Expansion of social safety net programs: Funding for rental and mortgage assistance and increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for individuals and families struggling with housing and food insecurity.
- Support for small businesses: $53.6 billion in aid for small businesses.
As the country moves toward recovery in the coming months, JFF urges the Biden administration and Congress to make meaningful investments in workforce training and reemployment initiatives to help the more than 10 million Americans who are still unemployed, and the millions more who are now underemployed, as a result of the pandemic. This is especially critical for the people who are suffering the greatest economic hardships—workers in low-wage jobs and individuals with no postsecondary credentials, who are disproportionately Black, Latinx, or Native American.
Significant federal investments in workforce training and reemployment assistance are needed—at a minimum, the $15 billion proposed in the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act.
Significant federal investments in workforce training and reemployment assistance are needed—at a minimum, the $15 billion proposed in the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott, who chairs the Education and Labor Committee, and in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Ideally, the total investment in training America’s workers would be closer to the $50 billion proposed by the Biden-Harris 2020 election campaign.
JFF further urges Congress to include funding for training workers who will be placed in new jobs in any bills that address infrastructure or job creation in the coming months.
JFF looks forward to working with Congress and the Biden administration to continue this important work.