January 15,2019

Press Contact:

Nicole L'Esperance (202) 224-4515

Wyden and Davis Introduce Legislation to Bring More Americans Into the Workforce, Reduce Barriers to Employment

Bill Supports Job Training and Employment for Disadvantaged Americans through Public and Private Sector Collaboration

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Representative Danny Davis, D-Ill., today introduced the ELEVATE Act to boost job prospects for Americans struggling to find work and help them maintain employment.

Despite the low unemployment rate in the United States, millions of workers are being left behind in today’s economy, and employers across the country are having trouble finding workers to fill current job openings. The ELEVATE Act puts employers and workers on a fast track to close this workforce gap together. The legislation provides funding for public and private subsidized employment programs, which help workers access training and supports to ensure income stability and their long-term success in the job market.

“ELEVATE will end the era of ‘train and pray’ and put workers on a fast track to careers,” Wyden said. “People struggling to find work want a job to provide for their families and pay rent. Too often, however, significant barriers stand in their way like access to childcare and transportation, or the training they need. At the same time, employers are having trouble finding workers to fill job openings. This bill is about connecting the dots.”

“The unemployment rate in certain parts of my congressional district can be as high as 50 percent given a number of societal and judicial related issues,” Davis said.  “I am pleased to work with Senator Wyden on ELEVATE to provide an added incentive to extend the economic promise of the American dream to those in struggling families.”

The ELEVATE Act (Economic Ladders to End Volatility and Advance Training to Employment) would incentivize public and private employers to hire and retain people facing barriers to employment, including the long-term unemployed, people with prior criminal records, dislocated workers and homeless individuals. To promote worker mobility and entrepreneurship, the ELEVATE Act would also create federal self-employment and relocation assistance programs for qualified workers to help them afford the cost of moving and starting their own businesses.

“This legislation is precisely what’s needed to help people and places left behind, even as the rest of the job market closes in on full employment,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. “The bill pays particular attention to helping people scale labor market barriers that have longed blocked them.”

“The best anti-poverty strategy is to ensure children’s parents and caregivers who are able to work can find jobs that pay enough to support a family and get the child care and other help they need to remain in those jobs. Increasing the availability of publicly funded jobs as ELEVATE does is a critically important step toward that goal and ending child poverty,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. 

“The ELEVATE Act addresses one of the key labor force challenges facing the U.S. today: how to re-engage millions of Americans who have dropped out of the labor market and often face serious barriers that prevent them from returning,” said Harry Holzer, former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University. “It is a sensible and serious proposal that deserves a serious hearing.”

"If you want an efficient, effective, evidence-based approach to pull people into a job market —no matter where they live— that has shut them out, this proposal is for you,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-Executive Director at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “In contrast to lavish tax cuts for the wealthy & well-connected, this proposal actually would help workers, their families, and their communities. And we'd all be better off because of it."

Center for Law and Social Policy’s (CLASP) Executive Director Olivia Golden said, “CLASP is proud to support the ELEVATE Act because it attempts to do just that, elevate people out of poverty and onto a sustainable economic path.  We know all too well the barriers and discrimination that people face in the workforce, many caused by lack of work supports, access to training, or child care.  By funding subsidized employment, the ELEVATE Act helps remove those barriers so those who need jobs the most can get meaningful employment.

A one-page summary of the legislative proposal can be found here. A longer, section-by-section summary can be found here and legislative text can be found here.