State eyes job-training program for low-wage earners

  • In this photo taken Tuesday March 3, 2015 the New Hampshire Statehouse is seen in Concord, N.H. An effort is underway to keep the Statehouse open on the weekends for visitors and tour groups. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)The New Hampshire State House is seen in Concord on Tuesday. An effort is under way to keep the State House open on the weekends for visitors and tour groups. Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 5/20/2016 12:53:22 AM

New Hampshire health officials are seeking legislative approval today to use $8.3 million to fund a workforce development initiative Gov. Maggie Hassan unveiled three months ago in her State of the State address.

Gateway to Work aims to get low-income residents into good-paying jobs and put at-risk youth on career tracks.

The program is one of the few policy proposals Hassan laid out in the annual address, her last in the governor’s office as she gears up for a competitive U.S. Senate bid against Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Gateway to Work would provide job training to people who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty limit, or roughly $24,000.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate, at 2.6 percent, is among the lowest in the country. Still, many low-income residents live in poverty because they don’t have skills needed to get higher-paying jobs. Others don’t have access to child care or transportation. The program would seek to remove those barriers, said Mark Jewell, bureau chief for the Welfare to Work program.

“The main goal is providing opportunities for more families to reach and stay in the middle class for employment,” said Jewell, of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re looking to engage that population to strengthen the workforce.”

The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, composed of three Democrats and seven Republicans, will decide whether to approve the initiative’s funding today.

The money would come from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash subsidies to low-income residents.

The TANF program has run a surplus in recent years as the number of enrollees has declined from 14,000 people in 2010 to fewer than 5,700 now.

The $8.3 million sum would launch Gateway to Work and fund it through its first six months, starting July 1.

HHS expects about 2,000 people to seek the job training, Jewell said. The training would put an emphasis on high-tech manufacturing skills, and case managers would oversee enrollees’ progress.

The program is a collaboration between several state departments. It would include subsidized summer employment for youth and partnerships between the community college system and the business community to start apprenticeship programs.

Several lawmakers said earlier this week they hadn’t finalized their vote.

The program “looks very interesting,” said Sen. Jerry Little, a Weare Republican on the fiscal committee and soon-to-be banking commissioner. “The whole idea is to get people off of entitlement programs and into work.”




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