Labor Department Unveils “Bridge to Work” Program

The plan combines work opportunities and unemployment insurance.

Posted: 04/20/2012 12:12 PM EDT

Unemployment insurance helps people who’ve lost their jobs weather hard times, but many workers are finding that they also need to learn new skills. The Labor Department on Thursday invited states to apply to participate in a “Bridge to Work” initiative that would allow them to team with businesses to provide temporary jobs and training for those receiving unemployment benefits.

 

“Through this initiative, 10 states will have the opportunity to develop new and creative ways to help recipients of UI funds get back to work faster,” explained Labor Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in a conference call with reporters. “These states will design programs that help the unemployed get back to work, while lowering costs and ensuring that all participants receive the same worker protections.”

 

Based on a program in Georgia called Georgia Works, the plan would enable individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits to receive temporary on-the-job training to retain their skills or develop new ones. It also would allow businesses to essentially test-drive prospective employees while being under no obligation to hire them.

 

In addition, participating states could dip into their federal unemployment insurance accounts to help workers pay for costs such as transportation to their temporary jobs. The plan was part of the payroll tax cut deal that President Obama reached with Congress in February.

 

According to an Associated Press report, in states where similar programs exist, workers are hired full-time about a third of the time.

 

"As our nation faces the lingering challenge of long-term unemployment caused by the depth of the Great Recession, it becomes more vital to do everything we can to help more Americans connect to the workforce at a quicker pace," White House economic adviser Gene Sperling told reporters during a conference call on Thursday. "This is a type of a program that allows more Americans under the unemployment insurance system to have greater opportunities to connect to work."

 

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