ARP: Lewiston ME, Recognizes Work of Caregivers

The work of caregivers can often be a labor of love. And all too often, that work is unpaid labor. One study estimates that, in 2017, Maine residents provided 152 million hours of unpaid care, worth $2.2 billion. State Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston) spearheaded legislation to address the issue. As part of the state’s plan to use American Rescue Plan funds, Maine will allocate $5.1 million to implement a Family Caregiver Grant pilot program.

The funding will increase the number of families served by the Respite Care Fund, alleviate costs associated with providing in-home care of an adult, and provide a family caregiver grant to increase economic security for family caregivers. Part of the funding will provide $2,000 annual grants to caregivers who do not otherwise receive payment for caring for a person. “This issue is personal for me. I was a family caregiver until my mom passed away in 2018 from Alzheimer’s disease,” Cloutier said. “It is time we finally recognize caregiving as the valuable work that it is. The Family Caregiver Grant Pilot Program is an important step in providing caregivers with the financial support they need and deserve, and I am so grateful that we will be able to use federal relief funds to run this pilot program.”


In continuing to build a robust support network for workers, Representative Kristen Cloutier championed another bill that created the Strengthening Maine’s Workforce Program, funded by ARP dollars. This program will provide $3.2 million in grants to 9 adult education programs focused on addressing educational and workforce gaps and will provide new opportunities for Mainers disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The program will partner with education partners and employers in industries in need of workers and provide workforce training as well as English language acquisition services.

ARP: Credentials for Oakland County, Michigan Workers

County Executive Dave Coulter is investing nearly $3 million from the American Rescue Plan in Oakland80, an ambitious plan to help 80 percent of county residents obtain a post-high school degree or credential by 2030, up from 61 percent in 2022.

The federal dollars will fund up to twelve “career navigators” who work in communities throughout the county to counsel residents about education and training opportunities. 

In late November, the county announced a portion of ARP funds will help essential workers receive their associate’s degree or complete a credentialing program. The state’s Futures for Frontliners program provides scholarships for tuition costs to community colleges, and federal funds will help cover the costs of books, supplies, and other related expenses for Oakland County residents. 

In addition to attracting businesses to Oakland County, the Oakland80 program is about “getting our residents the skills they need to get hired for good paying jobs that will boost the quality of life for themselves and their families,” Coulter said. “The infusion of American Rescue Plan funding has allowed us to significantly boost this program and that is truly a win-win for Oakland County’s residents and businesses.”

The Oakland80 is only part of the $9.6 million of ARP funding Oakland County is spending to support businesses and residents getting back to work. The county is putting $1.5 million towards programs to assist individuals who face financial barriers to participating in career credentialing and higher education programs. Within a month of launching the program, more than 30 people applied for funding to help pay for items from work boots to books.

The county anticipates assisting more than 6,500 residents with this program. An additional $1.2 million will go towards supporting child care for individuals disproportionately impacted by COVID. Up to 1,000 families can apply for the $1,200 child care scholarships, allowing families to return to work. As of early February 2022, more than 400 families had applied.


The program launched in May 2022, hiring six Career and Education Navigators to work in communities throughout Oakland County to support people in finding fulfilling careers. These navigators help provide assistance to get into college or a training program, as well as connections to other wraparound services to navigate other obstacles. They also serve to connect students and adult learners with employers with job opportunities, as well as colleges. Additionally, the county has approved $1.2 million to support over 300 families with childcare scholarships for residents who are juggling work, education, or training and struggling to afford licensed child care; and $1.5 million to help residents who are facing barriers to getting a college degree or training certificate.

ARP: New Bedford MA, Invests in Small Businesses

Mayor Jon Mitchell announced in late 2021 that $8 million of the city’s ARP funding will go toward helping small businesses. Mitchell identified three areas of targeted funding. First, small companies will receive support to upgrade their external facade, not only improving the attractiveness of their stores but also benefiting whole neighborhoods and corridors with many small businesses. Second, the funds will go to defraying new business start up costs. And finally, ARP will fund upgrades at the airport, allowing the city to compete for more infrastructure funding and support many businesses that rely on the airport. 


In June, the New Bedford Economic Development Council launched NBForward! and NB100!, two new funding programs that will administer $3.3 million to achieve Mitchell’s goal of helping existing businesses and new entrepreneurs flourish and grow. NBForward! will provide funding to businesses still recovering from the pandemic, and NB100! will focus on providing financial and technical assistance to help early-stage entrepreneurs get off the ground. The programs are currently accepting applications.

The facade program was very popular, and the interest exceeded the total funding availability, which was initially set to $1.5 million. The city has stopped taking applications, but may reopen the program if additional funds are allocated. As of March 2023, the city has received 88 applications, of which just 5 were rejected for eligibility reasons.

ARP: Lincoln NE, Supporting Small Businesses

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, hundreds of small businesses in Lincoln received up to $60,000 to pre-pay six months of rent or mortgage. In total, the city spent $7 million on the program. 

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s Small Business Stabilization Grants program targeted businesses with up to 50 employees. To ensure smaller businesses were not left out, $2 million of this funding was set aside to help businesses with five or fewer employees. 

As of late February 2022, more than 250 small businesses received a grant, impacting more than 2800 employees, according to the mayor’s office. Daryl Dickerson, owner of Sandy’s bar, is one of the small businesses that was helped. 

Dickerson said the grant “could not have come at a better time for us.” The COVID-19 Omicron wave “knocked us back quite a bit and made us seriously question the viability of our bar, or any bar for that matter, when the general public just doesn’t feel comfortable being in tight spaces with a crowd of people.”

Mayor Gaylor Baird said she is proud that the American Rescue Plan helped Lincoln support “small businesses that were disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic. She noted that those businesses “staff over 2,800 community members as employees.“


Data shared by Gaylor Baird’s office shows the program has spent $7 million to support 263 small businesses, impacting more than 3000 employees

Additionally, Gaylor Baird invested $1.2 million in utility grants to cover a year of electric and water payments for small businesses. As of February 2023, Lincoln has helped 160+ businesses, which will not receive a utility bill for the rest of the year, allowing them to hire additional staff and complete maintenance that was deferred during the pandemic.

A Model Job-Training Program

This week, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited San Antonio, where he praised NewDEALer Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s Ready to Work program. The $200 million program has a goal to train 28,000 low-income residents for better paying jobs by the end of 2025. The program formally launched in May, and so far nearly 6,000 people have applied. During his visit, Secretary Walsh said “We need to be more intentional about investing in workforce development, and we need to be doing it with cities…Programs like Ready to Work should be replicated around the country.” Read more about the program here, and also check out the Labor Department’s Good Jobs Initiative, which is seeking to improve job quality nationwide.


Lansings Equity Matrix to Provide Data to Improve Representation


The Economic Policy Institute identified that black and Latinx employees are underrepresented in “professional” jobs that pay more on average than other jobs. For example, white people make up 61.4% of the workforce, while black people make up 12.8%, Latinx 17.4%, and AAPI 7.4%. Within the next decade, eight of the ten major categories of professional occupations are expected to see above-average job growth. Therefore, if existing disparities in employment patterns persist, racial disparities in professional occupations are expected to widen.


Lansing Mayor Andy Schor launched the Equity Matrix, an online dashboard that monitors the racial and ethnic demographics of neighborhoods and the city’s workforce. The objective of the Equity Matrix is to decrease racial disparities in addition to assisting the City in planning for the present and future. The data will be used by the City of Lansing to help create strategic improvements in policies, practices, programs, and procedures, including recruitment and hiring practices and tracking progress in regards to diversity.



Preventing Discrimination against the Natural Hairstyles of Black Women


For generations, black hair has been unfairly deemed “unprofessional” in public settings like classrooms and the workplace. The study, published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, titled “The Natural Hair Bias in Job Recruitment,” identified that wearing natural hairstyles has a negative impact on black women’s career opportunities. For example,  black women with natural hairstyles were unjustly regarded as less professional, and were less likely to be suggested for a job interview than black women with hairstyles typically worn by white women.


The CROWN Act, sponsored by Sen. Raumesh Akbari, stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against natural and protective hairstyles like braids, locs, and twists. Any employees who believe their right to wear their hair naturally has been violated may submit a complaint with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The bill was approved by the Tennessee legislature, making it the first statehouse in the rural South to pass legislation barring discrimination towards natural hairstyles. 



Working to Grow Minority-Owned Businesses in Boston


A report commissioned by the City of Boston revealed disparities in the city’s procurement spending. The report showed that women-owned businesses and businesses owned by people of color were disproportionately underrepresented and only account for 8.5 percent of total contract 2.5 percent of total contract and procurement spending respectively. Only $9.4 million, representing 0.4 percent of total spending, went to black-owned businesses, whereas $18.2 million, representing 0.8 percent, went to Latino-owned businesses. In addition, Asian-American-owned businesses received $22.7 million, or about 1.1 percent.


Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recently filed a home rule petition that expands access to city contracts for Women and Minority Owned Business Enterprise (WMBEs). In 2020, only 1.2% of the city’s 2.1 billion contracts went to Black and Latinx owned businesses. The mayor’s groundbreaking proposal would significantly reduce barriers for WMBEs and make it easier and cheaper for them to apply. Once approved by the City Council, the petition will be sent to the Massachusetts Legislature and the Governor as part of a larger project aimed at expanding vital minority businesses and wealth-building opportunities. Check out more details on the proposal, which demonstrates Mayor Wu’s continued commitment to equitable economic development and removing barriers for disadvantaged communities.


Eric Lesser, Senator (Longmeadow, MA)

New Future of Work Report in Massachusetts

A new report published by Massachusetts’ Future of Work Commission, which is chaired by NewDEAL Leader Senator Eric Lesser, calls for the state to double the rate at which it is training skilled workers. Lesser authored legislation to create the Commission based on his experience chairing the NewDEAL Forum’s Future of Work policy group, and he hopes the report will serve as a roadmap for his state to adapt and create economic opportunities in a rapidly changing world. Among the main takeaways from the report are the need for more funds for certificate programs and short-term training options, more flexible transportation options for those who are working hybrid or unusual schedules, additional funding for affordable housing stock, and an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in the workforce, including increased language training for immigrants. For more, see the Commission’s final report here.

ARP: Boston MA, Preparing Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Mayor Wu announced more than half a million dollars in American Rescue Plan funding for four organizations to provide training for green and mobility jobs. The city approved a four-fold increase in funding for its green jobs program, increasing the budget from $1 million to $4 million. The majority of that funding – $3 million – comes from the American Rescue Plan. These specific grants will target populations hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, including individuals experiencing homelessness, residents recently released from incarceration, and women and people of color from under-represented neighborhoods. The Mayor’s office plans to have two cohorts per year, gradually increasing the number of participants in each cohort to 60. Cohort participants also receive workplace development training as well as a number of certifications, including from OSHA and conflict and de-escalation training.


In June, Boston launched PowerCorps, a program to train individuals for green jobs that pay a living wage. The six-month training program began with a 21-person cohort. All the participants receive a $550/week stipend as well as work clothing and transportation to job sites. The first cohort achieved a great deal of both meaningful work and professional development: assisted 87 acres of public land by removing 284 bags of invasive material and planted 61 trees and pruning 32; earned three college credits from UMass Mount Ida in Arboriculture; participated in mock interviews and completed 16 hours of financial literacy courses.

All 21 members of the inaugural PowerCorps program graduated in December 2022, and have a new green job or are enrolled in additional job training.

Impact Testimonies:

  • “The reason I joined PowerCorps was to find out who I was personally and
    make an impact on my community.” – Iman T.
  • “I’m glad I was able to pave the way for other women in forestry. In this
    industry where women are underrepresented however, I’m glad I felt
    empowered to use my voice. Thank you PowerCorps for allowing me to be
    heard.” – Jelaine F.
  • “I knew that I wanted to find a job that would let me have my hands in the
    dirt and benefit this community.” – Tafari W.
  • “This was the first thing I’ve seen through to completion since high school. I
    have to say the experience has been ethereal!” – Erica M.