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Blunt Rochester unveils Jobs Agenda bill package

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Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester Jobs Agenda

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said her Jobs Agenda has already secured a number of Republican supporters, which gives her hope of passage. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK – Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester has spent much of her public service career thinking about jobs and workforce development.

Before being elected to Congress, she served as labor secretary under then-Gov. Tom Carper and later state personnel director under then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. It began even earlier than that though.

“As we thought about this agenda, I thought back to my whole career, starting off as a teenager, wanting my own independence, and asking my dad if I could get a phone in my bedroom. He said, ‘Well go get a job,’” she said, recalling that she was hired at McDonald’s.

Blunt Rochester was thinking about her journey Wednesday as she unveiled the Jobs Agenda, a seven-bill package that combines workforce development, affordable housing and supply chain resilience into the biggest legislative proposal in her four terms.

“Jobs allow people to buy a home and build generational wealth. Jobs allow you to contribute to society and make a difference and live your purpose. And jobs give you dignity and respect. That’s what this agenda is about,” she said at a press conference at University of Delaware STAR Campus office of Tech Impact, an IT training program and service provider for nonprofits.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester Jobs Agenda

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester discusses her Jobs Agenda bill package during an April 12 press conference in Newark. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Some of the seven bills included in her Jobs Agenda had been previously filed in Congress but did not find enough support to proceed. Blunt Rochester said that she’s decided to package them together under a single banner to help her colleagues and the public understand the interconnectedness that a job brings.

“When we’re in an environment where the unemployment rate is at record low, and we have so many job openings, we wanted to put forth an agenda that was comprehensive, and that could look at all of these together and really unleash the potential for our economy,” she said.

With many of the bills already gaining bipartisan support in the Republican-majority House of Representatives, Blunt Rochester told Delaware Business Times that she is optimistic that they will clear Congress in the next two years.

“These are things that are bipartisan, and they are problems that we’re seeing across the country. So I’ve had a very positive response from my Republican colleagues,” she said, noting that she hoped to soon discuss the package with fellow Delawarean, President Joe Biden. “Our goal is to try to get the word out, make sure people see the connectivity and then make sure that we pass them and get them to President Biden’s desk.”

The Blunt Rochester Jobs Agenda includes: 

The JOBS Act, which would expand eligibility for federal Pell Grant programs to individuals interested in pursuing job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials or certificates. 

The Housing Supply & Affordability Act, which would create a new Local Housing Policy Grant (LHPG) program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s proposed to be funded at $300,000 a year for five years and be open to pilot project applicants seeking to increasing housing stock and affordability, or removing barriers.

 The Clean Slate Act, which would remove major barriers for many Americans in finding employment, securing housing, and accessing education by automatically sealing the federal records of individuals convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses after they successfully complete their sentence. 

The Building Resilient Supply Chains Act, which would authorize $41 billion over five years to support grants, loans, and loan guarantees that support the development, diversification, preservation, improvement, restoration, and expansion of supply chains and the domestic manufacturing of critical goods, industrial equipment, and manufacturing technology.

The Supply CHAINS Act, which would create a dedicated supply chain office led by an assistant secretary in the Department of Commerce that would map and monitor supply chains to identify vulnerabilities, establish industry best practices, and commission an independent study to determine whether a grant and loan making authority is warranted.

The Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act, which would amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by creating a five-year grant program at the Department of Labor to support community colleges and career and technical education centers in developing education and training programs for workforce development utilizing immersive technology.

The National Nursing Workforce Center Act, which would establish a three-year pilot program through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support state-based nursing workforce centers. The legislation would also broaden HRSA’s authority to establish Health Workforce Research Centers on any program under the Public Health Service Act and give HRSA clear authority to establish a nursing-focused research and technical assistance center under the Health Workforce Research Center Program.

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