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Iowa attempts to combat workforce shortages, make it harder for folks to collect unemployment benefits

Iowa workers

DES MOINES – Two new programs to help combat Iowa’s workforce shortage were announced this week – a new grant program to promote workforce innovation in the manufacturing sector and a new reemployment case management system to refocus Iowa’s unemployment system on rapid reemployment.

Iowa will be investing a total of $30 million in grant opportunities, using federal funds through the American Rescues Plan Act (ARPA), to assist small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses to improve workforce innovation through retention, recruitment of new employees, and leveraging technology solutions to address vacancies and increase workforce capacity. Advanced manufacturing is Iowa’s largest industry, accounting for nearly 18% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

The first grant opportunity will supplement the existing Manufacturing 4.0 program for small manufacturers, employing up to 75 employees, with $5 million. The second grant opportunity will invest $25 million to make similar grant opportunities available to mid-size firms employing 76 – 250 employees.

Separately, Iowa Workforce Development will soon be launching a new Reemployment Case Management system to make sure Iowans can get back to work as quickly as possible.

Currently, unemployment recipients do not have to engage with IWD’s re-employment process until week five. Now, IWD will provide one-on-one career coaching at week one and will audit the recipient’s work-search requirements on a weekly basis for those receiving unemployment benefits. With some narrow exceptions, weekly work-search requirements will also double from two to four and the number of activities that qualify as a work search will be reduced from 27 to 12.

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