Washington wins federal grant to support economic recovery from COVID-19

$12 million from U.S. Department of Labor to help unemployed workers

Unemployed workers throughout Washington will get jobs to help the state address and recover from the COVID-19 disaster, receive training for in-demand careers and get targeted help with their job search.

The $12 million disaster recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Labor also will help the state’s workforce system adapt to providing services virtually during and after the pandemic, according to a Tuesday news release from the state Employment Security Department.

The grant will:

* Place laid-off workers into jobs to respond to or mitigate effects of the COVID-19 disaster, including positions in emergency management; treatment and quarantine area set-up; unemployment claims intake; behavioral and developmental health, custodial services; delivery; food banks, shelters, and social and human services.

* Provide more workers with:

– Career coaches to help create customized re-employment plans.

– Immediate help with job search and placement into jobs on the state’s COVID-19 essential jobs list and other high-demand occupations.

– Short-term job readiness training for laid-off workers.

– Longer-term training to help people enter secure careers as the economy recovers.

* Provide equipment, connectivity and training to help the state’s workforce system adapt to virtual services.

The grant will prioritize help for people of color, those who are low income, and those who live in rural areas. The Employment Security Department, the Washington Workforce Association and the Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board, which wrote the grant together, currently are determining exactly how many people the $12 million will serve, but all agree the grant will kick start the state’s efforts.

“These funds will help Washington begin its pivot from disaster response to economic recovery,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Washington was among only six states that received $12 million – the highest amount awarded. We’re planning ahead and will apply for more grants to keep cranking up our economic engines.”

“Like any good economic recovery plan, ours applies short- and long-term strategies,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “Our first-rate workforce development system will employ some people immediately and train others for jobs of the future.”

The Employment Security Department will distribute the money using a formula based partly on the number of unemployed people in each of the state’s 12 Workforce Development Areas. ESD and the state’s Workforce Development Councils expect the money to be available soon.

“The need out there is so great, and we’re committed to working with our partners to help Washington’s businesses and workers survive these difficult times,” said Kevin Perkey. Perkey is chief executive officer of the Workforce Southwest Workforce Development Council and president of the Washington Workforce Association, which represents the 12 WDCs.

“The stakeholders who came together to support this grant, including the Association of Washington Business, Washington State Labor Council, and other state and local agencies made the difference,” said Eleni Papadakis, executive director the Washington’s Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board. “Together, we see a future that banks on all Washingtonians accessing a route to economic security.”

People who have lost their job through no fault of their own are eligible to benefit under the grant rules. If interested, they should contact their local WorkSource center via phone or email. All WorkSource offices currently are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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