The funds will subsidize wages for jobs in certain sectors hit by the pandemic, provide training for workers changing careers, and hiring for positions related to the state’s COVID-19 response.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 21, 2020
Gov. Phil Murphy excused himself from a press event in Camden County today after being notified of his potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from a senior staffer.
Some 10 minutes after announcing $14 million in federal CARES Act funds for workforce development, Murphy returned to the podium, and said, “I will now unfortunately have to take myself off the field.”
The governor is asymptomatic, and was negative for the virus after a routine test Monday and a re-test this afternoon, according to his communication director, Mahen Gunaratna.
In a statement issued later Wednesday, Gunaratna said the staffer (later identified as Mike Delamater, his deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs), the governor, and his wife are all quarantining at home. Gunaratna also reported subsequently that Daniel Bryan, Murphy’s senior advisor for strategic communications, also tested positive for the virus.
The Murphys have cancelled their in-person events for the rest of the week, and ” each will take an additional COVID-19 test before they resume any in-person engagements,” Gunaratna wrote.
Just moments before leaving the event, Murphy announced another 1,062 infections throughout the state (223,223 people in total) and 18 more COVID-related fatalities (14,456), with two Camden County residents among them.
“Hospitalizations are the highest they’ve been in three months,” he said. “This is not abstract. It remains with us. It’s surging over the last number of weeks.”
$14 million in workforce development programs and job subsidies
The jobs relief program encompasses $14 million in aid from the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, plus another $8.4 million in federal competitive grants to support displaced federal workers.
The CARES Act funds will be spent across three programs:
Relief Employment: a $4 million grant to hire “dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed” for “temporary jobs related to the state’s recovery from the pandemic,” including its long-term care (LTC) facilities.
Conditions in the state’s LTCs were identified as problematic in the report from the Manat consultancy this summer. LTCs have already been bolstered by $130 million in CARES Act funds, $78 million (60 percent) of which was dedicated to hiring certified nursing aides (CNAs) and boosting their wages to push back on turnover.
LTCs house some 45,000 New Jersey residents, or half of one percent of the state population. They are staffed by direct care workers, 91 percent of whom are women, 84 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities, and half of whom are immigrants, according to the Manat report.
Customized and On-the-Job Training: $3 million to cover 50 percent of wages during the training period of a new hire, with an employer commitment to hiring the candidate upon completion of the training. The program is intended to help fill vacant positions, including those left vacant because of reduced hours.
“We will specifically target our hard-hit retail and grocery, hospitality, restaurant and tourism, healthcare, transportation, and logistics sectors,” Murphy said. “Now is the time, we believe, to double down on these growth sectors to create a more resilient future.”
Employment and Training Services: $7 million to expand career support services at New Jersey’s workforce development boards.
One-Stop Career Centers will refer workers for direct jobs and short-term training, “reach[ing] out to those looking for a chance to reenter the workforce… [in] an effort to track them down and bring them back in,” Murphy said.
Services provided include outreach, intake, assessment screening, resume critiques, virtual job referrals, and referrals for short-term training.
“The need is everywhere,” New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
“We all know of businesses that are struggling or have closed, and workers who have been laid off, or have had their hours drastically reduced as a result of the pandemic,” Asaro-Angelo said.
“Workers who have jobs with benefits, credentials, a career path, and workers who are properly classified as employees have fared the best during this pandemic when claiming unemployment and looking for work,” he said.
“Nothing is as satisfying as a good job with good pay and good opportunities for a better future,” Murphy said. “That isn’t good just for our workers, but for our entire workforce, our families, our entire state economy.”
The governor described the program as providing “investments into dignity and security for working families.”
“And those are the best investments we can make,” he said.
“The pandemic may have knocked us back, but it did not knock us down,” Murphy said. “Today, we are reaching out to pull the working families who have been most impacted back up.”
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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