Similar bills are being considered by state legislatures in California, Georgia, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Check back frequently for the latest updates on those bills.
By contrast, New Jersey is currently considering a law that would allow employers to share an employee’s or former employee’s credit history, work evaluations and other information in the personnel file with prospective employers or government agencies.
In most of these states, the limits to an employer’s use of credit checks apply to all employment decisions. However, the Florida and Michigan bills would only restrict use of credit history in hiring. An employer could still use a credit report for employment decisions regarding current employees.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a $250,000 Regional Innovation Grant to Montana to develop strategic plans that move the regional economy from a declining base in timber to high growth industries that offer workers better employment opportunities.
Activities to be conducted through this project will include the development of regional leadership initiatives as well as social network and regional asset mapping studies. Through these activities, Montana will identify which high growth industries to target for longer-term economic development efforts.
“With the nature of the area’s economy changing, western Montana is ready to focus on new ways to advance the region’s economy,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Douglas F. Small. “Montana will use this $250,000 Regional Innovation Grant to develop strong economic strategies that offer workers good employment opportunities in growing industries.”
The grant, awarded to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Workforce Services Division, will assist the state in conducting extensive economic and leadership analysis. This analysis will lead to the development of strategic plans geared toward high growth industries.
Regional Innovation Grants are drawn from National Emergency Grant funds to assist state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards, as well as their key partners, in the design and development of comprehensive and strategic regional plans focused on talent development that is aligned with the demands of the 21st century economy.
A number of grants have been awarded in 2008. These include a $5.5 million grant for laid-off workers in the mortgage industry in California. Another grant benefits workers in Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. Still another grant to Iowa will benefit workers laid off from the John Deere & Co. factories there.
A unique grant to Minnesota will help that state develop a strategy for economic growth in the counties bordering Wisconsin, in collaboration with Wisconsin.
When the U. S. Department of Labor determines that laid off workers are affected by federal trade policies, a Trade-WIA Dual Enrollment grants can be awarded. The layoffs must affect more than 50 workers and can be either single company or multiple company actions.
Businesses sometimes form a partnership with government and non-profit agencies. These partnerships could qualify for a Regional Innovation grant. These grants often boost local economy by providing training in new industries to laid-off employees.
Over the last couple of years, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao has awarded several NEG (National Emergency Grants). Displaced workers in Lamar, Missouri were awarded close to $ 1.1 million in 2007 after the O’Sullivan Industries plant closed. Twenty counties in southern Illinois received a $250,000 grant for a new program, SI WORKS, to improve job opportunities and economic development.
NEGs are awarded at the discretion of the Labor Secretary for “significant dislocation events”. The purpose of the NEGs is to temporarily expand state and local service levels by providing time-limited funding. For example, when a plant closes or lays off personnel and that creates assistance beyond what the state can provide that state can apply for an Emergency Grant. To qualify, the state must include any discretionary funds in its state’s resources.
Different grants are awarded for different purposes. Regular NEG grants may be awarded when a layoff (from a single company or from multiple companies) affects 50 or more employees. These grants are also available when fewer than 50 layoffs negatively affect a rural or small community. Industry-wide layoffs in a region would also be covered by regular NEGs.
Areas affected by blizzards, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or other disasters are eligible for Disaster grants.
Trade-Health Coverage Infrastructure grants help eligible employees keep their healthcare insurance. To be awarded this grant, workers must be eligible for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) or TRA (Trade Realignment Assistance).
Information regarding grant policies is available from several state and local employment agencies. To ensure that funds will be available, a community in need should being the grant process as soon as possible.
Although unemployment is generally low throughout the nation, there are isolated pockets with higher jobless rates. A 3-year-old program under the federal Department of Labor is aimed at solving that problem.
The recently announced third-generation WIRED grants are sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration, which is part of the US Department of Labor. WIRED is an acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development. These grants work to develop innovative and creative way to bring jobs to typically economically depressed areas of a state.
WIRED grants work to keep the skills of workers both competitive and current. These skills are needed in an economy and job market that is becoming more and more global. The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development operates under the Employment and Training Administration, which is part of the US Department of Labor.
For the current set of grants, every state can submit no more than two proposals, and each proposal can be for a grant of up to $5 million. When regions compete, they need to also identify state, private, and regional funding sources that can be used in conjunction with the money from the US Department of Labor.
In the past, more than $260 million has gone to 26 regions under the WIRED program. Half of those funds came from private sources, or local governments. The remaining monies were from the federal coffers.
As Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao explains, “This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.”
The focus of the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development is on finding and supporting innovative strategies to boost economic and workforce development. These grants look to go beyond the traditional methods. In addition, this program has 10 federal agencies cooperating to boost the opportunities available in economically depressed areas.
How can economically stagnant regions of the U.S. help prepare their labor pools for the challenging jobs of the 21st century and the global marketplace?
One way is to get WIRED.
WIRED is a highly competitive grant offered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program is now in its third “generation,” or round, of grants.
A Montana unemployment grant would be a boost to workers in the state. It would particularly benefit those regions where continuing unemployment has been a challenge. It would join other regions like the Mississippi/Arkansas Delta region and areas like the Delaware valley, northern Indiana, and northern Alabama.
To date, the Labor Department has invested $260 million in 26 regions nationwide through the WIRED initiative. As a result, cooperation between 10 federal agencies has developed, all with a common goal – to produce more high-paying, high-skill work in the regions where they’re most needed.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said WIRED boosts regions’ economic vitality by investing in area workforces through this collaborative method. As a result, job skills stay current and competitive.
“This regional economic development strategy,” said Labor Secretary Chao while announcing the earlier, second round of grants, “transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.”
The governor of every state in the U.S. receives a letter from Secretary Chao announcing the latest generation of grant funding. Regions submit proposals to their respective governors. The governors in turn may pick a maximum of two proposals to be submitted to the federal government. Each grant may be for up to $5 million. Each region must identify the regional, private, and state sources of funding it already receives, so that the Labor Department may determine how to complement that existing funding.
WIRED is an acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development. As the name suggests, successful proposals offer innovative solutions to economic problems – solutions that go beyond the traditional methods.
Take a federal agency designed to help disabled workers find employment. Add the largest human resource managers’ association in the world.
You now have a combination that will bring their combined talents to bear to help find more jobs for Montana workers with disabilities.
Job opportunities for disabled workers have grown in recent years. Yet, according to the Labor Department agency involved in the new partnership, the talents of many disabled workers are still going untapped. The new alliance should put together a package of communication, outreach, technical help, training, and education for this underused workforce.
The federal agency is ODEP. That stands for the Office of Disability Employment Policy. The private group is the Society of Human Resource Managers, or SHRM. Its mandate is to find employment opportunities for people of all abilities.
This is the first such partnership for ODEP.
“This alliance formalizes the relationship we have had with SHRM,” says Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, noting that it benefits SHRM as it “serves its membership with resources ODEP brings to the table and offering ODEP the opportunity for broader contact with human resource professionals.” Together the two groups should be able to enhance recruiting and hiring of this population of workers with the help of access, research, and education.
The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) was founded in 1948. Its goal has been to provide assistance to the managers in the field by offering a host of wide-ranging resources to professionals involved. It has 205,000 members and more than 550 chapters, and is a global group – it’s found in more than 100 countries.
The Federal Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is a 21st century phenomenon, a policy agency under the Labor Department. In 2001, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao assigned responsibility and delegated authority to what was then the assistant secretary for disability employment policy.