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Update from Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas

COVID-19 Update

May 4, 2020

General

· The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) continues its efforts to support American workers and position the economy for a strong rebound. DOL is hosting a national online dialogue, Opening America’s Workplaces Again about the challenges that may be faced as businesses reopen and how best to help employers and workers safely reopen America’s workplaces.

This national online dialogue is hosted by DOL’s Office of Compliance Initiatives in partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, and Women’s Bureau.

The public—including employers, workers, labor unions, local authorities, and advocacy groups—is invited to participate in the dialogue from April 30 through May 7, 2020.

Join your fellow Americans and share your best ideas on these topics:

· Reopening businesses;

· Commuting safely;

· Working safely;

· Accommodating members of vulnerable populations;

· Supporting America’s families; and

· Reducing regulatory burdens.

We want to hear from you. Get started at https://OpeningWorkplaces.ideascale.com.

· The Office of the Governor – Texas Economic Development is continuing to host Small Business Governor’s Small webinars. While each webinar is targeted to a specific area of the state, small businesses from any part of the state are encouraged to attend at the time most convenient for you. The East Texas webinar will be May 6 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The West Texas webinar will be May 13, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. To see all events and register for a webinar visit: https://gov.texas.gov/business/events.

· The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has issued guidance to unemployment claimants concerning their continued eligibility for unemployment benefits (UI) should they refuse rehire. Each UI benefits case is currently evaluated on an individual basis. However, because of the COVID-19 emergency, the following are reasons benefits would be granted if the individual refused suitable work.

Reason for refusal:

  • At High Risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 (Source DSHS website).

  • Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (source DSHS website).

  • Diagnosed with COVID - the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.

  • Family member with COVID - anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.

  • Quarantined – individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.

  • Child care – Child’s school or daycare closed and no alternatives are available.

Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances.


The National Association of Workforce Boards announced their support Friday afternoon for new legislation to fund workforce programs.


The "Relaunching America's Workforce Act" (RAWA), was introduced this afternoon, by Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee Bobby Scott along with Representatives Andy Levin, Susan Davis, Suzanne Bonamici, Joaquin Castro, Marcy Fudge, Lucy McBath, Susie Lee, Haley Stevens, Joe Courtney, Steven Horsford, and Angie Craig and co-led in the Senate by Tim Kaine, Tammy Baldwinm and Tina Smith. RAWA intends to provide both immediate and long term supports to the U.S. workforce. The proposed funding structure in the legislation mirrors The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus bill passed in 2009 to address The Great Recession. Funding for the workforce system will be funneled through existing channels, to get resources to the local level as quickly as possible. RAWA aims to keep people on the job now, while also putting people back to work when necessary. RAWA focuses on maintaining core elements of WIOA and CTE by focusing on the most vulnerable populations and, while recognizing the definition of this will change due to the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring supports will be provided to those most effected. This Act increases flexibility so more funding can be used for training, supportive services, and career services.

A section by section summary can be found here.

· The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta conducted a listening tour with 47 representatives from across the southeast who work in areas related to housing, workforce development, small business, consumer credit, and financial counseling in both urban and rural areas. The article also includes links to other research, including an article focused on the need for child care services by health care workers. Access to the article can be found here.

Unemployment and Economic Data

Unemployment claims continue to rise and have increased by almost 1,714 since the prior report.


· As shown in the chart below, UI claims peaked during the week of March 22 with a second peak during the week of April 12, reflecting filing by self-employed and contract workers.


· The Texas Workforce Commission recently launched a new UI Claimant Dashboard. This interactive map displays data by workforce development area, county, Texas House District and Senate District, US Congressional District and the top 25 zip codes. County level data includes population, UI claimant count, top 5 UI claim industries, gender, and monetary eligibility data. Click here to access the Dashboard.

· To date over 1,097,247 Unemployment Insurance claims have been filed. The top five UI claims by industry are:

o Full-service restaurants: 120,216

o Offices of dentists: 41,811

o Hotels and motels, except casino hotels: 37,141

o Limited service restaurants: 27, 179

o Department stores: 26,000

Child Care Services

· As of today, 202 children of essential workers are enrolled in and receiving care. Workers may apply for services on-line using a one-page application.

· Overall, 62 of the 151 (41%) of reporting providers in the region are closed as of May 4. Numbers remain unchanged for contracted child care providers, with 27 remaining closed as of May 4.

· Retroactive to April 1, all contracted child care providers who were open and providing care at any time during the month are receiving an additional 25% increase in their reimbursement rate. This temporary incentive will continue in May with the Texas Workforce Commission determining how long it will remain in place.

· The Texas Child Care Task Force and Health and Human Services Commission are offering a new program to asst any child care provider to purchase cleaning supplies directly from Maverick International. Interested providers will be able to order and pay on-line, then products will be shipped to a designated site. West Central has volunteered to serve as a distribution point for this program.

If you have any questions or need additional information regarding any of these items, please feel free to contact us at crisisresponse@workforcesystem.org. You may also reach out directly to Mary Ross, Executive Director, at 325-795-4301 or via email at: mary.ross@workforcesystem.org.

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© 2020 by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

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