American Workers Come First, Trump Administration Launches ‘Engaging as One Workforce for America’ Initiative
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (Department of Labor) and Agriculture (Department of Agriculture) will be joining efforts to put American workers first in a post-coronavirus economic recovery initiative to help more families experience the benefits of work.
Together, through the “Engaging as One Workforce for America” initiative, HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will work to increase the capacity of state and local governments to:
- Engage unemployed individuals to shorten durations of unemployment and reduce disconnections from the workforce that make it harder for individuals to return; and
- Connect to the workforce those who were not participating in the labor force prior to the pandemic, through a comprehensive and coordinated public and private effort.
The vision of “One Workforce” is to encourage states and local communities to coordinate and maximize resources and technical assistance across federal, state and local funding streams, as well as from the private sector, to support training, employment services and social supports to increase access to employment opportunities for all Americans. “One Workforce” will create a coordinated approach to helping state and local governments, working in conjunction with community organizations, to prepare a skilled workforce for employers.
“We’re doing everything we can to help struggling Americans secure the training, support resources, and job opportunities they need to provide for their families,” said Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson at the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our goal in this partnership is to lift up our American workers and help set them up for success.”
“Developing an integrated local partnership system that serves Americans who have been most affected by the pandemic is critical,” said Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch at the U.S. Department of Labor. “This initiative encourages states to coordinate funding and leverage resources available to create a one workforce system that will more efficiently and effectively move Americans off the economic sidelines and toward the dignity of work.”
“Together our agencies are focused on combining our efforts to move more families forward,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “The outcome of work provides hope, dignity and a better future for workers, their children and our nation.”
The three agencies will join forces with an initial small number of states to pilot cross-program strategies that will help more Americans impacted by coronavirus access reemployment services, training and social supports to help them enter, re-enter, and remain in the workforce. This includes leveraging federal funds and program opportunities from within their agencies, including:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at ACF;
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) at the Department of Labor; and
- Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) at the Department of Agriculture.
ACF, ETA and FNS have pledged to support this initiative through technical assistance, identification of potential funding sources, coordination of efforts, and bringing other federal partners in to assist. The focus of these partnerships will be on supporting state and local government innovations across programs, in coordination with their business communities, as state and local governments know best their job sector needs and how to connect their citizens to the training and jobs needed for their specific labor markets. Flexibilities and innovations identified through the pilot efforts will be made broadly available to all state and tribal grantees, along with any federal technical assistance needed.
Concurrent with the announcement of the initiative, a limited number of states are being sent the following letter:
As you know, prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency, our nation was experiencing unprecedented growth and economic vitality. Almost every demographic experienced historic employment rates. Now, within a matter of months, our way of life has changed, and for many that includes the means for supporting themselves and their families. As we engage in reopening, we invite you to join us in engaging unemployed individuals as we rebuild our economy. We know, and research confirms, that the longer an individual is disconnected from the workforce, the harder it is for that individual to return. For that reason, now is a crucial time for action – and we’d invite you to partner with us in that endeavor.
The last few months have been difficult for millions of Americans. Record numbers exited the workforce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, the return to the labor force is a function of time and the reopening of certain businesses or industries. For others, including those who were not participating in the labor force prior to the pandemic, it will take a more comprehensive and coordinated public and private effort. In this moment, we, your federal partners, believe we have an even greater obligation to collaborate with you in addressing the needs of the unemployed.
We are responsible for administering three critical workforce development programs in three federal agencies:
- The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) promotes workforce preparation as one of the four statutory purposes for which TANF funds can be used. ACF encourages states, territories, and tribes to support job readiness and skill-focused training as allowable uses of TANF funds. ACF also provides discretionary funding for career pathways training.
- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) administers federal programs for workforce development and worker dislocation, federal grants to states for public employment service, and unemployment insurance benefits under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These programs are operated primarily through state and local workforce development systems with support from federal and other funding sources.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) offers the SNAP Employment and Training Program to states. This program helps SNAP participants gain skills, training, or work experience to increase their ability to obtain and maintain employment, thereby increasing self-sufficiency.
Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of our programs in a post-COVID-19 economic recovery to help more families experience the benefits of work. Aligning and leveraging our combined program resources toward the common objective of helping millions of people affected by the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn is imperative. And such efforts will assist in recouping job losses, a top priority of government at every level while cities, counties, states, and federal agencies struggle with diminished revenues and greater demands on resources and services that attend job losses.
We are committed to this endeavor. We propose to initially partner with a small group of willing states to pilot a combined workforce program initiative to help more households enter, re-enter, and remain in the workforce – with the assistance of whatever services they may need to achieve that goal, such as re-employment, training, and social supports. For some people, this could mean changing jobs, industry sectors or learning new skills. With a cross-agency focus, we will encourage our state partners to align and leverage the resources of their vital workforce programs at the state and local levels. Our state and local partners know best how to connect workers to the training and specific jobs needed for their labor markets. Our three agencies pledge to support this partnership through technical assistance, identification of potential funding sources, and coordination of our efforts.
Based on your state’s consistent commitment to workforce development and improving the lives of all families, we believe you would be an excellent partner in this initiative. Any willing and committed state may participate in this initial group if they wish. To facilitate this effort, ACF has engaged Kristi Putnam, former Deputy Secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, to serve as the point of contact. Ms. Putnam will contact you to initiate an organizational meeting with you and members of your team either by electronic means or in-person, following applicable health and social-distancing guidelines.
We stand ready to help and look forward to collaborating with you.”
Lynn A .Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families
Brandon Lipps, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
John Pallasch, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, ETA