BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)– Massachusetts is preparing to host the biggest virtual job fair in its history next month, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said Tuesday, an event that will come before 330,000 residents are set to lose expanded unemployment insurance benefits in early September.
“All we can do is try to get people reattached to the labor force as soon as we can,” Acosta said.
The enhanced unemployment benefits supported by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to expire the week of Sept. 4. Acosta said benefit recipients are currently getting emailed by the state to connect them with workforce training and job placement programs, and the Baker administration is planning the “biggest virtual job fair we’ve ever done” from Aug. 16 to Aug. 20 with employers from multiple industries signing up to participate. “They’re falling off the cliff on that day, so what are we doing? Part of that is why I’m here today,” Acosta told Rep. Paul Donato, assistant vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Acosta and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy led off the Legislature’s second hearing exploring how the state should spend more than $4.8 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. The hearing focused on housing, labor and economic development needs.
Gov. Charlie Baker has filed legislation (H 3922) that would put roughly $1.8 billion into housing, economic development and workforce training, including $1 billion to support home ownership and housing production and $250 million for job training. Kennealy said the additional $200 million proposed for the production of affordable homes would support the construction of 1,660 new homes, building on the 500 units supported with the existing $60 million allocated to the Commonwealth Builder program. The administration’s plans would also put $300 million into first-time homebuyer assistance programs to begin to close what Kennealy said was the seventh largest racial home ownership gap in the country. “There are real structural barriers here,” Kennealy said.