COVID-19 has presented many problems and challenges for area employers and businesses, and certainly for our citizens. Food service businesses have laid off workers and are only able to provide take-out service. Many other businesses have closed or drastically curtailed what they are able to do, not only to help their employees, but in terms of serving individuals in our communities who are suffering as well. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs and the number of individuals filing for unemployment benefits has skyrocketed. Mississippi is no different from other states in that we are not prepared for the magnitude of the pandemic.
The Central Mississippi Planning & Development District (CMPDD) serves as the administrative entity for the Southcentral MS Works (SMW) Workforce Development Area. The workforce area, one of four in the state, utilizes federal workforce funds to provide employment and training assistance to individuals and to employers. In an effort to help unemployed or laid off workers as well as area employers, SMW is providing assistance in the form of internship opportunities for workers to assist employers with humanitarian efforts, such as providing meals and other necessities during this time of crisis. The program allows workers to work up to 280 hours each, and wages will be paid at the rate of $12.00 per hour by a third party temporary staffing agency under contract with SMW. The workers will be covered by Workers’ Compensation during the internship period.
In addition, the State of Mississippi has applied for a U.S. Department of Labor National Emergency Grant. If approved, this grant will bring a large sum of workforce dollars into the workforce area to be used to help get individuals back to work and/or assist them with the cost of skills training. As the extent of the economic and job market implications of the COVID-19 pandemic emerge, it will be more important than ever for CMPDD and the workforce area to be equipped to respond to the needs of workers and employers. As workforce area innovators and administrators, CMPDD’s Workforce Division will adapt as necessary to meet the needs of our ever-changing workforce and whatever the new “normal” looks like.