It may be years before we know the comprehensive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic mobility and resiliency for families and systems. Even before COVID-19, breaking the intergenerational poverty cycle with a whole family approach implored the federal government and state governments to discover new tools to improve systems. In light of the pandemic, ACF Region 6 and 9, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, developed a series which included four unique webinars each interwoven to present an introductory landscape of how States and families are addressing economic mobility and resiliency. The webinar series explored the emergence of improvements in the delivery of social and human services with presentations and discussions from state health and human service executive leaders, the Federal Reserve Bank, and relevant national leaders.
The first webinar, Forecasting the Future: Changing Our Approach to Human Service Delivery featured presentations from Jason Saving, an Economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Justin Brown, Secretary Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Dr. Savings provided an overview of the regional economy, noted that service and manufacturing sector jobs have sharply declined, and added the erosion of job skills during the pandemic will make it harder for unemployed individuals to find employment as the economy reopens. Secretary Brown explained his department’s “Service First” model, a community-based, client-centered, whole-family approach to human services delivery. The model was established to meet the needs of its customers during COVID and in the midst of budget shortfalls, demonstrate how OKDHS prioritized services and workforce over physical structures. Staff were retained to work remotely in the communities they served and OKDHS found that community engagement and partnerships were critical components of service delivery as they began to close county office buildings throughout the State. According to Secretary Brown, “by creating community partnerships and using communal facilities, OKDHS was able to ’put people at the center of our services’ and increase our presence by providing additional meeting places which are more convenient and better for families.”
The second webinar, The COVID Benefits Cliff: What Do We Do Now? explored the reality that while the CARES Act provided many unemployed workers benefits greater than their lost earnings, the effects of these enhanced benefits included a new and more severe cliff. David Altig, Executive Vice President and Director of Research, U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, explained how COVID is reshaping the Benefits Cliff for many low-skill workers transitioning off government programs and faring worse during COVID. He also discussed the CLIFF Dashboard (Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster), which illustrates savings and losses to both the individual and the government as a worker enters and moves through a professional career rather than continuing in a low-skill job.
“The Dashboard can help inform decisions, reduce uncertainty and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in our economy,” Dr. Altig concluded.”
Dr. LaDonna Pavetti, Vice President for Family Income Support Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, spoke about how the COVID pandemic resulted in an increase in the need for social programs such as SNAP, housing assistance, and cash assistance, as a result of increasing unemployment throughout Regions 6 and 9. And, Michael Wisehart, Director, Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) discussed the impacts of pandemic unemployment insurance on the new COVID benefit cliffs. With responsibility for TANF, SNAP and unemployment insurance programs, DES addresses issues facing customers including unemployed, employers, public assistance recipients.
The third webinar, Opportunity Occupations: Where Are the New Middle Skill Jobs and “Pivot” Positions? focused on middle skills jobs. Before the Pandemic, middle skills jobs accounted for 53% of the US labor market, with only 43% of the nation’s workers trained at the middle skill level. Adriana Cruz, Director, Economic Development & Tourism/Office of Governor Greg Abbott, State of Texas discussed state’s economic trends and the economic impact and outlook due to COVID-19. After leading the nation in job creation in May with 237,800 jobs, Texas added only 163,500 jobs in June through August. Isla Young, Senior Program Development & Engagement Specialist, Nevada Governor's Office of Workforce Innovation, discussed the economic fallout of COVID-19 in the hospitality industry. With the unemployment rate in Nevada among the highest in the nation, it is critical to identify new career pathways including opportunities in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, information technology, logistics and the Trades. Rounding out the panel, Dr. Mindy Zapata, Director, Early Head Start and Head Start/Southwest Human Development (SHD) highlighted the impact of the pandemic on children and families in Phoenix, Arizona. As an Educare site and through two-generation programming, SHD offers a job-imbedded practicum experience to prepare parent volunteers wishing to re-enter the workforce or change occupations to participate in job training and credentialing programs. A public/private partnership funds a remote learning program so participants can safely continue credentialing programs during the pandemic.
The final webinar, Career Connected Learning: Making Educational Pursuits Payoff, addressed how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts multiple industries and forces leaders to reimagine how to be nimble and proficient in an ever-changing environment. A team from Dallas College spoke about the need for educational institutions, students, and business to align learning with current and future workforce needs. Dr. Robert DeHaas, Vice Provost/School of Education, discussed the new bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education and teaching at Dallas College. Dr. Raghu Kanakala, Vice Provost, School of Engineering, Technology, Mathematics and Sciences and Dr. Greg Morris, Senior Vice Provost of Academic Services explained how the Cloud Computing program, a collaboration with Technology, Business and Global Trades programs, partners with Amazon Web Services, Google and other companies. Also, Sarah Turner, Section Chief, CalFresh Employment & Training, California Department of Social Services, discussed the 37 out of 58 counties in California that voluntarily participate in the CalFresh (SNAP) E&T program to increases in job placement, job retention, higher wages, program participation, employability, and removing barriers to employment. And, Tanya Garbolino, Program Manager, Fresh Success/Foundation for California Community Colleges, discussed the Fresh Success partnership between CDSS and the Foundation for California Community Colleges. During COVID, Fresh Success provides a laptop lender program and financial assistance for internet access to supports colleges, adult education providers, and community-based organizations in starting and operating third-party SNAP E&T programs. The panel presentation ended with Molly Hubbert Doyle, Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas who addressed the work to promote economic inclusion by strengthening collaboration and the development of the Advance Together™ Program, which recognizes that people of color face structural barriers that limit their opportunities to get ahead and to build economic resilience.
“The killing of George Floyd has only illuminated more clearly issues that have long existed in our country. Our program goals reflect the Dallas Fed's commitment to breaking down barriers and building an inclusive economy where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. “ --Molly Hubbert Doyle
Over 400 people covering all States in Region 6 and 9 registered for the Fall 2020 webinar series. From identifying impacts of the COVID pandemic on low-income families and social and human services delivery, to identifying innovative solutions and looking to the future, this webinar series provided a wealth of information for federal and state social and human services organizations.
If you would like access to the webinar recordings please send an email request to Mae.Rowlett@acf.hhs.gov.