Publish date: August 25, 2021
A new research brief by CARE At Work at the UCLA Labor Center, Dismantling Disparity: Breaking Barriers to Employment, states that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the systemic discrimination Black workers have long faced. Authors note it is imperative that state and federal funding allocated to workforce development prioritize addressing the barriers that impact many Black workers.
Institutionalized racism leads to Black people being overrepresented in incarcerated and homeless populations and at risk for a number of health and educational disparities. These factors create economic insecurity and barriers to employment that are difficult to overcome without strategic support.
Additionally, COVID-19 has spurred the start of a national economic downturn, which especially impacts low wage and public sector workers. In California, over one third of Black workers are low wage workers, and nationally, nearly one fifth of Black workers are public sector workers. From March to December of 2020, 84% of the Black labor force in California filed for unemployment.
In this economic landscape, workforce development initiatives have a unique opportunity to seize state and national investments in infrastructure and public industry to remedy long standing historic disadvantages faced by vulnerable groups.
The California Workforce Development Board’s (CWDB) Breaking Barriers to Employment Initiative aims to create grant programs that ensure that individuals are equipped with skills training and educational services that will reduce barriers to employment, allowing them to successfully enter the labor market, retain employment, and work toward economic security.
Amendments to Breaking Barriers to Employment, such as those currently suggested in AB 628, would allow for more resources to reach Black workers who have been economically devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For Black workers, this is just one of many state sanctioned initiatives necessary to mitigate decades of economic disadvantage.