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Joint letter recommends Oregon commit $50 million to programs creating 10,000 qualified job candidates

PMG FILE PHOTO: STEPHANIE BASALYGA - Michell Perez stands outside the workshop area as workforce development group Oregon Tradeswomen helps with constructing a mixed-use development in Gresham.Clackamas County on Tuesday, Oct. 12, formally supported a joint letter draft recommending the state of Oregon commit $50 million of its share of federal COVID-19 relief dollars to invest in workforce development.

Elected commissioners suggested committing funds toward three strategies intended to facilitate an influx of at least 10,000 qualified job candidates into the county's workforce, mitigating drastic increases in long-term unemployment rates as compensation periods have expired.COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Clackamas County added its logo to a joint letter draft recommending Oregon commit $50 million to workforce training programs.

For the workforce training, Clackamas County is requesting federal dollars allocated to the state through the CARES Act or American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). No county dollars are being requested for this cause.

With the board's action on Tuesday, the county's logo will now be included in the letter alongside the logos of over 60 entities from across the state including counties, institutions, organizations and others who are backing the call to action.

According to the letter, Sept. 7 marked the termination of access to extended unemployment compensation for nearly 80,000 Oregonians, exacerbating an already grim circumstance with thousands more state residents still recouping from pandemic-related impacts.

A shrinking pool of qualified candidates is unwelcome news for employers as well, as local businesses are becoming increasingly understaffed, "impeding their ability to grow" as well as hindering the state's ability to recover economically from the pandemic, according to the letter.

In the letter, advocates propose increasing "local service capacity," meaning expanding Clackamas County's workforce partners' capacity to serve the needs of workers and businesses. Workforce partners may include support service providers such as career coaches or comprehensive skill development programs.

To increase unemployed Oregonians' opportunities to find new careers, advocates in the letter suggest funding paid internships, paid community service work, stipends and other income supports as well as occupational training and placement into middle-income career opportunities.

The letter also advocates for "wrap-around support services" in areas such as child care, housing and behavioral health support, describing these services as a key factor that can enable people navigating poverty to participate in programs that will help them regain employment.

In the letter, advocates also urge Oregon to ensure economic recovery efforts are equitable across social demographics, proportionally distributing more resources to the groups most impacted by COVID-19, which include communities of color, women, lower-income workers, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+ persons and more.

"Oregon has no time to waste. People are suffering, communities are struggling, and employers are facing a workforce crisis," advocates wrote in the letter. "We can address these issues with proven, scalable fixes that benefit workers and employers. Local workforce boards and their existing community partners can move quickly and make a difference now!"

Clackamas County-based organizations and institutions in support of the recommendation include: North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, Clackamas Community College, Clackamas Service Center, Clackamas Workforce Partnership, Clackamas Women's Services, Todos Juntos, Clackamas Education Service District, Clackamas County Business Alliance, and Oregon City Business Alliance.

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