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Responding to the crisis before us

  ·   By Rachel Unruh & Katie Spiker
Responding to the crisis before us

Update March 26: On March 19, National Skills Coalition sent a letter  to Congressional leadership detailing these comprehensive recommendations that would address needs of workers, businesses, and communities. On March 21, NSC along with more than 30 other national organizations, sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for vital investments in workforce programming as part of any response to CoVid-19 and its economic impacts. For more on our analysis of the federal response to CoVid-19 and its economic impacts, see our blog here.

March 18 – The financial, emotional, and physical toll that the COVID-19 health pandemic has put on our country can’t be overstated. This is a time for federal policymakers to come together – using every policy lever possible, every public resource available – to do everything we can to immediately protect and support workers and small businesses. Based on principles informed by our networks, National Skills Coalition has developed the following policy goals for an immediate stimulus package to assist workers who need income, healthcare, and housing today and to shore up small and mid-sized businesses trying to keep their doors open. You can read the full reccomendations sent to Capitol Hill here. We know there are people who will suffer the impacts of this crisis more acutely and in inequitable ways and we are working with our network to develop policy solutions that could be in subsequent stimulus efforts over the next couple months.  

Working with our networks, National Skills Coalition will release more detailed recommendations under these goals in the coming weeks. To stay informed about these recommendations, how we’re working with Congress to advance them, and how any passed legislation will impact your local community, please sign up for our email list. 

Immediate Responses for a National Stimulus 

Remove all barriers to our nation’s safety net: Immediately remove barriers to the existing federal safety net including health, food, housing, and cash assistance. 

Congress is currently considering suspension of a rule that will make it harder for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Congress should suspend all work-related restrictions for all safety net programs and give recipients significantly more time to get back into family supporting jobs. 

Provide comprehensive income, healthcare, and re-training support to all displaced workers: Guarantee access to income replacement, healthcare, and re-training for any displaced worker, including contingent workers. 

America’s existing Trade Adjustment Assistance program provides these robust, comprehensive benefits, but it is only available to workers displaced by trade. This level of benefits must be expanded to all forms of economic displacement, including pandemics, and all types of workers including contingent workers. Universal, expanded access to supports necessary to help effectively and efficiently connect dislocated workers to good jobs would be a more targeted and more comprehensive solution than current Universal Basic Income proposals which only provide income replacement. 

Help small and mid-sized business avert layoffs: Help businesses keep their employees while they are paid and re-trained during and in the aftermath of COVID-19, including for jobs that are themselves rapidly changing with new technology. 

Current tax policydoes not empower businesses to invest reskilling workers, particularly those with the greatest skill needs. Congressional changes to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit could provide targeted tax credits that support investments in retraining and will be a more effective way to support retraining and retention of workers than payroll tax incentives to all businesses. 

Additional Short-Term Responses for Subsequent Stimulus Efforts 

Address immediate shortages in industries needed to respond to crisis: Industries like healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing are essential to responding to COVID-19 and are already facing severe shortages of trained workers. Congress can tee up Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as quickly as possible to get as much money on the ground as possible to train displaced workers for these jobs and to ensure capacity is in place when community colleges and training providers re-open physical classrooms.  

Update education and training policies to respond to marketplace disruption: Update our higher education policies to support the infrastructure and flexibility required for short-term digital learning to get displaced workers retrained quickly. This effort will help shore up the country for future disruptions whether they are health, environmental, trade, or technology related. This will also require a national effort to address the disproportionately low digital literacy skills among workers in industries like food service and retail that will be most impacted by job loss due to COVID-19. 

Create jobsThere is strong bi-partisan support for a major effort to re-build our nation’s infrastructure, which could create millions of jobs that will be needed even more coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. NSC is leading efforts to develop a workforce training and re-employment title within anticipated federal infrastructure proposals. We want to ensure that any infrastructure package includes comprehensive training and support services with a focus on those who have been disproportionately impacted by racial inequities in education and labor policy.  

Posted In: Trade Adjustment Assistance, Federal Funding, Higher Education Access