Sacramento, California - Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and a bipartisan coalition of legislators submitted a letter to the Assembly Committee on the Budget requesting a $25 million investment into workforce development programs, as established in AB 1111 (E. Garcia, 2017), Breaking Barriers to Employment. Numerous statewide workforce, employment, and job training entities such as the California Workforce Association, voiced their staunch support for Garcia’s initiative at a press conference this afternoon.

“This funding is critical to helping California address unemployment, counteract regional poverty while meeting the increasing workforce demands of our businesses,” said Assemblymember Garcia. “In collaboration with local workforce development boards and community-based organizations, these programs will provide much-needed support to our most vulnerable populations, such as veterans, low and unskilled workers, out-of-school youth, the formerly incarcerated, single moms and others looking to escape poverty and achieve economic self-sufficiency.”

Bob Lanter, Executive Director, California Workforce Association noted, “AB 1111 is designed to fund myriad job placement programs and supportive services, open to any community-based organization in the state. This bill is designed to provide a much-needed investment in Californians with the toughest challenges to employment, and providing a pathway out of poverty for not just a job, but rather a career. It is crucial that California help this population acquire the fundamental skills necessary to prepare for work in high-priority industries. Together, we can break the cycle of poverty by opening this door, pointing the way to a career ladder for thousands of families across our state.”

There is currently no state budget for the newly created “Breaking Barriers to Employment Fund” instituted in AB 1111. This $25 million request would kick-start funds for these competitive workforce development grants. Grant proposals are required to be submitted as a partnership between local workforce development boards and community-based nonprofit service providers with experience serving the targeted population. Projects must include specific measurement of success that illustrates how the assistance increased the individual's skill-level and prepared them to take on higher levels of training or obtain jobs.

Local stakeholders from Assemblymember Garcia’s district such as Priscilla Lopez, Executive Director of Imperial County Workforce Development Board flew to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of their community’s unique needs and regional interests. The county currently holds the state’s highest percentage of unemployment and would greatly benefit from these investments.

“Imperial County is located in the far southeastern corner of California, bordered by Arizona to the East and Baja California to the South. Our community, with approximately 187,000 residents, relies heavily on the agricultural industry. However, the seasonal employment cycles that come with agriculture also contribute to the current unemployment rate of 17%, which is grossly disproportionate to the unemployment rate of the rest of the nation. These employees have many barriers to gainful employment ranging from language limitations to skills deficiencies, but they are resilient and hard working. Resources for our community are extremely limited, that’s why Assembly Bill 1111 is so important to our region. AB 1111 would allow for the creation of a more robust training program to further support our efforts in the development of a stronger workforce,” she said.

In addition to Garcia the budget request letter bore the signatures of Senator Hueso (D- Chula Vista) and Assemblymembers Waldron (R-Escondido), Rodriguez (D-Pomona), Salas (D-Bakersfield), Acosta (R-Santa Clarita), Levine (D-Marin County), Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga),  Medina (D-Riverside), Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Maienschein (R-San Diego), Quirk-Silva (D–Orange County), Baker (R-Dublin) and Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

“As a group of bi-partisan legislators, we believe the most effective way to pull people out of poverty is to give them the tools they need to obtain higher paying, middle class jobs.  Additional education and training is key to improving job prospects,” stated Assemblywoman Marie Waldron.