PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is proposing a a $200 million legislative package to bolster the state’s workforce during the pandemic.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the program, titled “Future Ready Oregon,” aims to prioritize key populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and existing disparities. They include Oregonians of color, women, low-income individuals, rural communities, veterans and those who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.
Lawmakers will consider the plan when the Legislature convenes Feb. 1.
Three specific sectors would benefit from the program: Health care, manufacturing and construction.
Members of Brown’s Racial Justice Council, business groups and labor policy experts developed the program in late 2021 with the central theme of “meeting people where they are.”
That means investing approximately $82 million in existing programs that have shown results in putting people to work. Those include programs administered by the state’s nine regional workforce development boards, community colleges and career-specific apprenticeship programs.
The governor also wants to help especially hard-hit Oregonians by spending $95 million to solve problems that keep people out of the workforce. That includes covering the cost of tuition and fees for school and training programs, transportation, housing, food and childcare costs.
The $12.5 million remaining would help launch initiatives to support those engaged in the program by helping them navigate the benefits available to them and connecting the business community to consortiums set up for each of the three sectors involved.
The total $200 million would be composed of both state general fund monies made up of personal and corporate income taxes, as well as American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council, called the program a “game changing and exciting” proposal.
“We have immediate needs. Employers need talent right now, and there are a lot of Oregonians who are looking for new careers as they’ve gone through the pandemic,” he said. “(This program) really is trying to reimagine how we provide education and training services to adults.”