Douglas County residents who are unemployed or underemployed and want to go to Alexandria Technical and Community College may be eligible for grants, thanks in part to the American Rescue Plan Act.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion package signed into law in March by President Joe Biden, was designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts. ARPA provides $21.6 billion for states, territories, and local governments to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities, among other items, because of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the Dec. 21 Douglas County Board meeting, Alexandria College President Michael Seymour and Jeff Wild, who is the college’s vice president of Advancement and Outreach, made an ARPA funding request for the Douglas County Workforce Development Program, which provides retraining assistance for unemployed or underemployed workers.

Michael Seymour
Michael Seymour

“One major barrier for people to go to college is money,” Seymour told the commissioners. “Our proposal is to help people who were impacted by the pandemic.”

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The $500,000 request was unanimously approved by the commissioners.

Alexandria College ARPA Funding Request by Celeste Edenloff on Scribd

Wild explained that the funding will be used for grants for eligible Douglas County residents for up to three years or until funds have been exhausted. Assistance would include tuition and fees plus related expenditures such as required books or technology rentals.

The Douglas County Workforce Development Program will include all technical certificate, diploma and degree programs, plus individual courses such as nursing assistant, intro to computers, Microsoft Office applications, job seeking/keeping skills, and other skills-based or general education courses.

Jeff Wild
Jeff Wild

To be eligible, individuals must be a resident of Douglas County who graduated from high school prior to January 1, 2020, and who is either unemployed or underemployed.

Unemployed includes workers who have been unemployed 15 weeks or longer, have lost a job because of downsizing or layoffs, or individuals who have not worked since the start of the pandemic and are looking to reenter the workforce.

Underemployed includes the following people: Discouraged and marginally attached workers, those not in the labor force who want and are available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but not within the prior four weeks; workers employed part time for economic reason; and workers who have completed temporary jobs for economic reasons.

The program is expected to run January 2022 through December 2024 or sooner if funds run out.

Materials handed out to each of the commissioners stated that through expanded marketing efforts, financial support and partnering with the local Workforce Center, Alexandria College will identify those looking to upgrade their skills.

The hope is to provide training and education to more than 100 Douglas County residents.