Providing access to education, developing our nation’s workforce, and creating jobs are among some of the most important priorities for America’s mayors. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for well-positioned city residents to contribute to our nation’s economy and mayors have created a clear path forward, advancing policy proposals that will help our workforce grow and put Americans back to work.
On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors Committee on Jobs, Education and the Workforce – led by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon – met virtually, adopting six resolutions that will shape the Conference’s policies for creating jobs, expanding the workforce, improving access to education and ensuring economic security and mobility for the next year and discussed multiple issues related to both education and the workforce which have been impacted deeply by COVID-19.
The Committee began its meeting by debating and approving a resolution sponsored by a bipartisan group of Mayors led by West Sacramento Mayor and Committee Chair Christopher Cabaldon in support of the College Affordability Act (CAA). The CAA addresses the rising cost of a college education and increases federal student aid so that every student can afford to realize their dream of going to college. The resolution approved by the Committee calls on Congress to pass this important legislation and make a college education more accessible and affordable for all students.
Policies to help the nation rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic were a particular focus for the Committee, as they also adopted a resolution in support of a guaranteed income to ensure economic security and mobility for all Americans and urged Congress to implement a guaranteed income that lasts through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Cabaldon also advanced a resolution establishing mayoral priorities for workforce development in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resolution urges Congress to pass both the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act and the Emergency Benefits for Independent Workers Program Act. It also urges Congress to provide additional funding for programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and extend the expanded unemployment benefits contained in the CARES Act beyond December 31, 2020.
The approved resolution also encourages mayors to consider opportunities for workforce development and stackable certifications when scaling testing and contact tracing in their cities, expand and promote telework, focus on strategies for building education and workforce skills for the new economy, leverage and expand on partnerships with businesses, innovators, foundations, learning institutions, non-profits, and associations and build critical mass for systemic solutions including credential clearinghouses and assessments.
In addition to establishing the priorities for workforce development in response to COVID-19, the Committee also debated and approved a resolution urging Congress to pass the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Energy Solutions Act (HEROES Act) recently passed by the House.
It also approved a resolution sponsored by a bipartisan group of mayors led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urging Congress and the Administration to approve the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act – a bill designed to fund 750,000 national service positions over a three-year response and recovery period.
Finally, the Committee passed a resolution in support of water infrastructure and workforce investment to protect and promote public health. This resolution, sponsored by Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti and St. Petersburg, FL Mayor Rick Kriseman supports immediate investment in infrastructure that modernizes and expands our nation’s drinking water, wastewater treatment, groundwater treatment stormwater capture, and flood protection systems. The resolution also prioritizes water infrastructure projects designed to provide a more resilient and secure water supply and includes new and updated handwashing, hygiene and hydration stations at public buildings.
With the Standing Committee’s approval, these resolutions will now move on to consideration by the Executive Committee of the Conference.
A video address by Congressman Bobby Scott, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor
In addition to considering the numerous resolutions, Congressman Bobby Scott, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, addressed the committee by video on the importance of supporting the HEROES Act, which passed out of the House in May. The emergency education relief and federal assistance to state and local governments in the bill are vital to support local services as states and local govt continue to feel the drastic financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Briefs on impactful programs
Mayors also shared two pivotal programs that are having dramatic effects in local communities.
Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, CA, and Chair of the committee briefed members on an initiative to admit every graduating West Sacramento high school senior to college. In response to the sadness the students and community at large were experiencing at the loss of culminating moments from their senior year, West Sacramento wanted to do more than virtual recognitions, videos and drive-by graduations. They had a radical idea – what if we could get everyone admitted to college? For many, the transition from high school to college can be daunting and may appear unattainable, but with one step, West Sacramento removed a key barrier by eliminating the college application process. Local colleges sent letters of acceptance directly to graduating seniors. The result? An uptick in enrollment, kids who weren’t thinking of going to college now excited to do so and an entire city that feels positively about the ability to support its young adults in the pursuit of higher education.
In Birmingham, AL, Mayor Randall Woodfin launched #BhamStrong,” a public-private partnership designed to create a service corps in response to the city’s dual needs: jobs for residents who had lost theirs as a result of COVID-19; and support for new services for the community. Over 800 people applied for membership in the Corps, and to date, over 300 have been placed in paid opportunities. The service corps supports the unemployed and under-employed to offer services for COVID-related needs. Whether it’s setting up a temporary testing clinic, supporting the local surge in PPP applications or assisting with medical transport, #BhamStrong is helping keep residents safe and pave a path to an eventual safe reopening. Corps members represent hourly workers, gig workers, out of work reporters, chefs and grant writers, all who reported experiencing, on average, more than a 50% decline in income. The city is currently focused on how to transition the Corps from servicing short-term pandemic relief to long term recovery and ensuring skill-building opportunities to create pathways for career success.