Gov. Baker announces $5 Million investment Targeting Chronically High Unemployment

Photo: Massachusetts National Guard

New initiatives to fight chronic unemployment will be included in the proposed FY 2017 budget, Governor Charlie Baker’s office said recently.

Baker and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Ronald L. Walker II, who is also a member of the governor’s task force on persons facing chronically higher rates of unemployment, announced $5 million in new investments to address high unemployment among African Americans, Latinos, persons with disabilities, Native Americans and recently-returned veterans on January 25, Baker’s office said in a press release.

The new investments include $2 million to create a new Economic Opportunity Fund, $2 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and $1 million to expand statewide reentry and job training programmes for former criminal offenders who are reentering society, Baker’s office said. While unemployment in Massachusetts is below the national average at 4.7 percent according to December’s numbers, the unemployment rate is between two to three times higher among African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, persons with disabilities, Native Americans and recently-returned veterans.

“Since taking office, our administration has focused on reaching individuals and families across the Commonwealth who have felt they have not been able to take advantage of or experience our state’s many economic strengths,Baker said in a statement released by his office. “By building the capacity of community-based organizations and others who already have the expertise and experience working with individuals who face higher unemployment rates, we can enable more people to find and keep jobs and support their families.”

The new Economic Opportunity Fund will work to support “community-based organizations who partner with businesses to offer job training and hiring opportunities for people who face employment barriers. The grants will allow organizations to provide a deeper level of engagement to help residents find a job,” Baker’s office said. The Workforce Competitive Trust Fund will target individuals who need job training or education to make the transition to employment, Baker’s office said.

In addition to the $5 million, the governor’s task force also recommended improving the public workforce system through continued implementation of the federal Workforce Investment Opportunity Act of 2014, extending the Disability Employment Initiative through March 2017, which offers job training to people with disabilities, and using the career centers to reengage the long-term unemployed, Baker’s office said.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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