Today, U.S. Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), introduced legislation to help American workers attain the skills they need to compete as we confront the coronavirus pandemic. The Skills Renewal Act will create a flexible skills training credit in the amount of $4,000 per person that may be applied to cover the cost of a wide range of training programs that build skills expected to be in high demand by employers in the coming months. The credit will be made available to any worker who has lost their job as a result of the pandemic in 2020 and the credit may be applied to cover training expenses incurred through the end of 2021.

The tax credit is fully refundable—which means it will be available to all workers, including low-income workers with no federal income tax liability. The credit may be applied to offset the cost, on a dollar-by-dollar basis, of training programs located anywhere along the postsecondary pipeline—including apprenticeships, stackable credentials, certificate programs, and traditional two- and four-year programs. To maximize participation, distance learning programs will also be included.

“Our economy was changing rapidly before this nasty virus and the current economic crisis is going to speed things up,” said Sasse. “We have to make sure that Americans have the skills we need to compete. Workers who are using this bumpy time to update their skills and retrain for new jobs are going to be a big part of that comeback, and we ought to reward them for their perseverance and grit. We’re going to come out of this stronger.”

"Bold action is required to help newly unemployed Americans find their footing and begin preparing for life after the pandemic,” said Klobuchar. “This new legislation will help Americans gain skills that will be in demand for years to come and position them to rapidly reenter the workforce with increased earning potential as soon as businesses begin hiring again.”

“As we continue dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, we must come together to develop and implement innovative strategies to get people back to work,” said Booker. “This bipartisan bill will enable laid-off workers to access rigorous, evidence-based training programs, helping ease the barriers to re-entering the workforce. In doing so, we can train and build a workforce that is stronger and more dynamic than ever before.” 

“The COVID-19 epidemic has significantly altered our economy, and we should take smart, impactful steps to ensure American workers have access to the tools and training they need to succeed as the recovery process begins,” said Scott. “We know the longer people are unemployed, the harder it is for them to rejoin the workforce. The SKILLS Renewal Act will provide workers with the resources they need to keep their skills sharp while they are out of work, either through distance learning or more traditional methods such as apprenticeships.” 

Background: 

In 2018, Sasse and Klobuchar introduced the Skills Investment Act to expand Coverdell Education Savings Accounts to cover skills training, career-related learning, and professional development.