WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Elevating America's Workforce Act.
If enacted, the legislation would "establish personal reemployment accounts (PRAs) to help displaced workers obtain the training and skills necessary for sustained employment," according to a press release.
It was noted that the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has led more than 40 million Americans to file for unemployment over the past few months.
The Elevating America's Workforce Act would provide people more choice in how they access training, engage employers to expand work-based opportunities and incentivize success through a reemployment bonus, the release said.
Specifically, the bill will:
• Enhance individual choice by providing more flexibility on where people can acquire new skills, including from providers that offer virtual or online training programs.
• Increase the ability of businesses, particularly small businesses, to attract and train skilled workers by supporting work-based training programs for new employees.
• Incentivize individuals to earn recognized post-secondary credentials and acquire in-demand skills with a bonus for completing training and reentering the workforce.
• Encourage the use of counseling and career services through the local workforce centers.
• Provide states the ability to target accounts to individuals most in-need of new skills and enhance the quality of labor market information tools.
• Report on provider outcomes and include a robust evaluation to guide future investments in workforce development.
In a statement, Stefanik — who is the bill's sponsor — said the pandemic has caused joblessness to hit certain regions and sectors particularly hard, including many in the North Country.
“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will provide training opportunities to workers who have been impacted by the pandemic and restore their individual ability to secure a meaningful career," she continued.
"As businesses across the country re-open and jobs are being created, we must support those who are seeking reemployment during a challenging time. I look forward to working with my colleagues and helping the North Country get back to work.”
Moulton stated that one of the fastest ways Congress can help people and the economy recover is by helping people learn new skills they can bring to businesses looking for qualified workers.
National Association of Workforce Boards President/CEO Ron Painter said in a statement that the country was beginning to understand the economic damage caused by COVID-19 and the "world of work" that will result.
"Changes in work and how we work make it clear that continuous learning will be essential," he continued.
"It is also clear that American workers and business alike, now more than ever, are in need of strong support from the federal government to facilitate life-long learning."
Painter's organization "applauds Congresswoman Stefanik and Congressman Moulton for recognizing this and the critical role of workforce development boards through the introduction of the 'Elevating America’s Workforce Act.'"
The bill would provide more than $8 billion for personal reemployment accounts, he added.
North Country Workforce Development Board Executive Director Sylvie Nelson said in a statement that the bill would "give local areas adaptable tools to effectively help job seekers learn in-demand skills needed to re-enter the workplace quickly.
“The act is key to the workforce system as it provides meaningful online learning opportunities to meet employers’ demands.”