May 20, 2020

Kilmer, Brooks, Sewell, Thompson Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Help Unemployed American Workers Access Skills Training Programs During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Skills Renewal Act creates a flexible $4,000 skills training credit for newly unemployed Americans, will allow workers to access their choice of training programs and gain skills expected to be in high demand in coming years

Tacoma, WA – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06), along with Representatives Susan W. Brooks (IN-05), Terri Sewell (AL-07), and Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), introduced legislation to help American workers attain the skills they need to compete as we confront the coronavirus pandemic. The Skills Renewal Act will create a flexible skills training credit in the amount of $4,000 per person that may be applied to cover the cost of a wide range of training programs that build skills expected to be in high demand by employers in the coming months. The credit will be made available to any worker who has lost their job as a result of the pandemic in 2020 and the credit 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. The credit may 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.

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), are introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

“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. As the economy reopens, American workers need to be empowered to navigate the substantial economic changes ahead,” said Rep. Kilmer. “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.”

“We know as a result of this devastating pandemic many in our workforce who lost their jobs are facing incredibly difficult financial burdens,” said Rep. Brooks. "The key to their future is giving them the necessary 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."

“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 450,000 Alabamians have filed for unemployment in the last two months alone. It is critical that these Alabamians have access to the tools they need to get back to work quickly in good, high-paying jobs,” said Rep. Sewell. "The Skills Renewal Act invests in our workers and in our economy by making available a $4,000 tax credit for those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus, and enroll in training programs and college courses now that will prepare them with skills to help them succeed in the future.”

“COVID-19 has shown us just how much the country depends upon a skilled and trained workforce," said Rep. Thompson. “The Skills Renewal Act 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. I pleased to support this bipartisan legislation that invests in the country's number one resource, our people.”

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

The legislation is endorsed by the following groups: Third Way; Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative; and National Skills Coalition.

"Unemployment Insurance provides important short-term financial relief to people who have lost work through no fault of their own. The Skills Renewal Act offers a crucial next step, providing financial support for unemployed and furloughed workers to access high-quality training opportunities to upgrade their existing skills and transition to sectors of the labor market where opportunities are expanding," said Alastair Fitzpayne, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative.

“In the midst of a global pandemic and looming economic recession, we desperately need big and bold thinking to rescue American workers. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have answered that call with the Skills Renewal Act. The Skills Training Credit this legislation creates is an essential tool to help tens of millions of unemployed Americans afford postsecondary credential programs that will help them advance their careers and re-enter the workforce,” said Gabe Horwitz, Senior Vice President, Economic Program, Third Way.

"Bold action is required to help newly unemployed Americans find their footing and begin preparing for life after the pandemic,” 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.”

“Our economy was changing rapidly before this nasty virus and the current economic crisis is going to speed things up,” Sasse said. “We have to make sure that Americans have the skills we need to compete. Workers who are using this bumpy time to update their skills and retrain for new jobs are going to be a big part of that comeback, and we ought to reward them for their perseverance and grit. We’re going to come out of this stronger.”

“As we continue dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, we must come together to develop and implement innovative strategies to get people back to work,” Booker said. “This bipartisan bill will enable laid-off workers to access rigorous, evidence-based training programs, helping ease the barriers to re-entering the workforce. In doing so, we can train and build a workforce that is stronger and more dynamic than ever before.” 

“The COVID-19 epidemic has significantly altered our economy, and we should take smart, impactful steps to ensure American workers have access to the tools and training they need to succeed as the recovery process begins,” Scott said. “We know the longer people are unemployed, the harder it is for them to rejoin the workforce. The SKILLS Renewal Act will provide workers with the resources they need to keep their skills sharp while they are out of work, either through distance learning or more traditional methods such as apprenticeships.”