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A year later, Blunt Rochester presses on with Jobs Agenda

Katie Tabeling
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Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) talks with key figures in Delaware’s manufacturing sector during one of many stops promoting workforce and supply chain initiatives. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

WASHINGTON D.C. —  It’s been a year since Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) has unveiled her jobs and workforce development agenda. While there hasn’t been as many wins as she would like, she’s still bullish on its future and counts the steps along the way as central to the path ahead.

The Jobs Agenda, a package of eight federal bills designed to improve Delaware’s economic, workforce development, affordable housing and supply chain resilience, was a culmination of not only the issues Blunt Rochester saw people struggle with in the last four years, but also her own experiences growing into economic independence.

With a consistent and strong labor market, consumer spending slowing down and inflation moderating the economy, Blunt Rochester told the Delaware Business Times that there was no better time to fortify that success.

“At a time when the nation has seen unprecedented economic advancement, comprehensive legislation in the Jobs Agenda would build on this progress for Americans and businesses alike,” she told DBT. “The legislative package would work to alleviate workforce shortages, strengthen our supply chains, boost American manufacturing, and expand access to affordable housing.”

As Delaware’s sole representative went for a capstone tour of the state’s manufacturing plants, child care facilities and innovation hubs like the STAR Campus, Blunt Rochester saw many provisions outlined in the Jobs Agenda supported when the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program, which provides training and resources for those looking to upskill or enter a new field.

Blunt Rochester also secured $5 million for workforce development programs and emerging technologies, as well as other funding for community colleges, other adult education facilities and workforce data collecting initiatives. She and Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper also delivered $6 million in affordable housing projects as well as working behind the scenes to secure Delaware’s place in the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2).

Another major win Blunt Rochester can point to is the Promoting Resilient Supply Chains Act that passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously in December 2023. That bill, based on one of her initiatives in the Jobs Agenda, would designate the Assistant Secretary of Commerce responsible for leading the whole-of-government supply chain resilience efforts.

It would also create a robust mapping and monitoring program on materials, as well as create strategies and  advisory boards to assess new technologies and issues that threaten to break the supply chain.

Along the way, Blunt Rochester held roundtables on supply chain resilience in life science and business matters as well as artificial intelligence and the cyber-security workforce. She’s also worked with Delaware Banks and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition to continue the fight for the Clean Slate Act. That bill would remove barriers for many Americans by sealing the federal records of individuals convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.

However, other key initiatives in the Jobs Agenda have seen little movement. Blunt Rochester and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) sponsored a bill that 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. That has yet to move beyond a committee. 

Still, Blunt Rochester remains committed to seeing the Jobs Agenda through. She noted that President Joe Biden has seen a strong economic rebound with the creation of 15 million jobs, including 800,000 jobs in manufacturing, emphasizing the need to strengthen the manufacturing sector is more pressing than ever.

“The Jobs Agenda is not only about creating high-quality opportunities and strengthening our competitiveness, it is also about reducing barriers to entering the workforce so that all Delawareans can succeed,” she said in a prepared statement. “These bills are critical to ensuring our national security and economic health status, and I’m looking forward to having these bills voted on and signed into law by President Biden.”

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