Federal Relations

June 8, 2009

Senator Feingold Introduces Bill to Help Displaced Workers

Senator Feingold on Helping Displaced Workers Find Health Care Jobs

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation today to help displaced workers in communities hit hard by the tough economy retrain for high-demand health care jobs. Feingold’s Community-Based Health Care Retraining Act specifically targets communities that have suffered job loss in a variety of industry sectors including manufacturing, construction and service sectors.  The legislation would allow communities to apply for grants that would fund retraining efforts led by local workforce development boards.  In April, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin was 8.8 percent according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. 

“In this tough economy, communities throughout Wisconsin have lost manufacturing jobs both at large factories and small manufacturing businesses,” Feingold said.  My bill is designed to give hard-hit communities the opportunity to help retrain their citizens for good, in-demand jobs in the health care field.  This bill will help get people back on their feet and remain in their communities while strengthening our health care industry.”

“WHA is supportive of Sen Feingold’s legislation because it focuses on healthcare jobs–an area with important current and future demand,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Vice President of External Relations Jenny Boese. “And it wisely requires a partnership model to meet community and worker needs. We appreciate the Senator’s efforts on this issue.”

“The Wisconsin Workforce Development Association commends Senator Feingold on the introduction of the Community-Based Healthcare Retraining Act.  The highly publicized nursing shortage combined with an aging American population presents the opportunity to train displaced workers for sustainable high-demand, high-wage occupations.  We appreciate and support this innovative and timely legislation,” said Francisco Sanchez, Chairman of the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association.

“Blackhawk Technical College experienced a 22% increase in enrollment during the 2008-2009 academic year that just ended and expects the enrollment “surge” to be maintained into the near future, as recently dislocated workers continue to retool and retrain for their futures.  The potential for local assistance through the Community-Based Health Care Retraining Bill would be greatly appreciated,” said Eric Larson, President of Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Feingold’s bill would create a new competitive grant demonstration program to be implemented by the Department of Labor.  Local workforce development boards would submit applications to the Department of Labor to create or expand job retraining programs.  The Community-Based Health Care Retraining Act puts control in the hands of the local government by allowing these local workforce development boards to partner with institutions of higher education and other community leaders to design programs that can retrain dislocated workers for jobs in the health care industry.  The partnerships funded by this legislation will be able to use these funds for a variety of purposes, including for implementing training programs, providing tuition assistance, providing transportation assistance, and to increase capacity for existing training programs. 

The bill is endorsed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Wisconsin Hospital Association, Wisconsin Workforce Development Association, University of Wisconsin System, Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin, Moraine Park Technical College, Gundersen Lutheran, American Health Care Association, South Central AHEC, Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNet), American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Madison Area Technical College, Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP), UMOS, Fox Valley Technical College, Columbia County Economic Development Corporation, Lakeshore Technical College, Western Technical College, Workforce Connections Inc., Blackhawk Technical College, Mid-State Technical College, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Southwest Technical College, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Northcentral Technical College, and Gateway Technical College.