The grants, which total just under $500,000, is part of the Recompete Pilot Program, a federal program to create renewed job opportunities in economically distressed communities.
On Wednesday, the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration announced grants awarded to Mississippi in order to fund efforts to increase labor force participation.
The Strategy Development Grant (SDG), awarded to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) in a partnership with Accelerate MS, aims to fund local planning activities to increase the state’s low labor force participation rate.
The grants were awarded across 20 states and were authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act.
“Recompete helps fulfill President Biden’s promise that no community in America will be left behind as we continue to grow our nation’s economy and invest in American workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a statement. “These Recompete finalists and grant recipients have presented a wide range of inspiring solutions to create jobs, develop long-term economic growth, and realize the full potential in communities that for too long have been overlooked or counted out.”
According to recent comments by State Economist Corey Miller, Mississippi’s participation rate in the labor force is at an all time low at 53.9%. This has the state ranked 49th in the U.S., only above West Virginia.
“Recent data seemed to indicate that a lack of population growth in Mississippi is keeping that rate from increasing or pushing it down. If that is true, focusing on the lack of population growth in Mississippi is more paramount than it’s been,” said Miller.
The grant announced Wednesday is part of the Recompete Pilot Program, a federal program to create renewed job opportunities in economically distressed communities. Mississippi was awarded $499,470 through the program.
“This funding will allow partners to dedicate time and effort to digging deep to determine what training and support efforts will serve the community members best to enable them to be competitive for the good jobs available,” said Dr. Courtney Taylor, Deputy Director for Strategy & Programs at Accelerate MS.
The state will have additional opportunities to apply for more funding next year.
Accelerate Mississippi’s Recompete Strategy will address prime-age employment gaps by identifying barriers individuals face when entering the workforce. They will focus on occupational skills attainment in Jackson, Hattiesburg, and the Delta. These particular regions were selected because of high unemployment rates.
“The Strategy Development Grant provides an opportunity to support communities in Mississippi by connecting under served populations with high-quality careers,” said Robin Stewart, Interim Executive Director of MDES.
A statewide coalition, the Mississippi Alliance for Targeted Career Help (MATCH), was developed in order to address indicators of economic distress in unique regions of the state by supporting infrastructure needs as well as education and training.