Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill Aims to Provide Unemployed With Access to Skills Training

May 22, 2020 by Dan McCue
Chairs are spaced out for social distancing at a temporary coronavirus testing facility for casino employees at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced in both the House and Senate this week would create a flexible, $4,000 skills training credit for workers who have lost their job due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Skills Renewal Act affords these workers the opportunity to access their choice of training programs and gain skills expected to be in high demand in coming years.

The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., Susan Brooks, R-Ind., D-Ala., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.

The credit will be made available to any worker who has lost their job as a result of the pandemic in 2020 and may be applied to cover training expenses incurred through the end of 2021.

The tax credit is fully refundable — which means it will be available to all workers, including low-income workers with no federal income tax liability.

It can be applied to offset the cost, on a dollar-by-dollar basis, of training programs located anywhere along the postsecondary pipeline — including apprenticeships, stackable credentials, certificate programs, and traditional two- and four-year programs. To maximize participation, distance learning programs will also be included.

“In addition to being the largest public health crisis of our lifetime, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the most significant economic challenge since the Great Depression,” Kilmer said.

“As the economy reopens, American workers need to be empowered to navigate the substantial economic changes ahead,” he continued. “The bipartisan Skills Renewal Act will help anyone who has lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 enroll in apprenticeships, college classes, or retraining programs so they can learn new skills, land new jobs, and earn a good living.”

Brooks said the key to the future for workers negatively impacted by the pandemic is to give them tools to find a new job.

“This bipartisan legislation will incentivize Americans to improve their skills through apprenticeships, stackable credentials, and college courses so they can help to restart our nation’s economic engine and thrive in the post pandemic economy,” he said.

Reps. Kilmer and Thompson originally introduced the Skills Investment Act in 2018 to expand Coverdell Education Savings Accounts covering skills training, career-related learning, and professional development.

Thompson said the re-introduced legislation will “support individuals who have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic and will support career and technical education opportunities such as apprenticeships and certificate programs.”

The legislation has been endorsed by Third Way; Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, and the National Skills Coalition.

“Bold action is required to help newly unemployed Americans find their footing and begin preparing for life after the pandemic,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This new legislation will help Americans gain skills that will be in demand for years to come and position them to rapidly reenter the workforce with increased earning potential as soon as businesses begin hiring again.”

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