You are currently viewing California opens relief grant targeting laid-off workers

California opens relief grant targeting laid-off workers

In summary

A one-time state program worth $500 million has been opened from its pilot program to support displaced workers who want to learn new job skills. Unlike other student aid, this grant can support programs of less than three months. Beneficiaries cannot have been enrolled in a training program when they lost their job.

Experiencing a pandemic sucks, but for Diana McLaughlin, the start of 2020 has been particularly bad: a divorce in February 2020, a company shutdown in March and, as part of the economic fallout from COVID-19, she lost her job. in April of that year. , returning to full-time work only 18 months later.

California lawmakers had economically struggling people like McLaughlin in mind when they approved half a billion dollars in education grants worth $2,500 last year to help workers displaced by the pandemic to learn new job-related skills.

McLaughlin is among the first 3,000 recipients of this grant, adult learners who received checks under a pilot program this spring and summer. Now, the state is opening the grant to a wide range of low-income adults who have lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced during the pandemic. Half of the grant funds are reserved for displaced workers with children under the age of 18.

Officials expect to reach 190,000 people with the money, called the Golden State Education and Training Grant Program.

Among the few stipulations to receive the grant, applicants must complete a short application that takes about 10 minutes to complete and certify that they lost employment or hours after March 4, 2020, when Governor Gavin Newsom declared the emergency state. Applicants must also affirm that they were not enrolled in an educational or vocational training program when they lost their job. There is also an income threshold.

Part of what makes the application quick to complete is how little it asks for. Unlike other college grant applications, this one is self-declared and self-certified, wrote Judith Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the state financial aid agency that administers the grant, in an email. “We are not asking for any documents,” she added.

McLaughlin wasted no time once she received her scholarship in June 2022. After attending American River College, a community college in Sacramento, part-time since October 2020, she decided to going full-time to pursue her very first degree. this fall and chose accounting as a major.

“I feel like that shows him how important an education is and to never give up because I’m here, 47, and in college.”

Diana McLaughlin, grant recipient

The $2,500 is used to pay for her textbooks, software needed for schoolwork and other supplies – anything left over she puts into a personal education account. Although she receives tuition waivers through a state financial aid program and extra dollars through the Cal grant, the Golden State grant gives her extra confidence that she can afford an education while earning around $38,000 a year.

“I spend my lunch break doing my homework,” she said. After returning from the office, she takes her associate degree courses online. McLaughlin’s younger son is a student at a virtual charter school, so the two do their homework side by side.

“I think it shows him how important an education is and to never give up because I’m here, 47, and in college,” she said.

Expand financial aid in California

On the face of it, the Golden State Education and Training grant, which will last through 2024 and is funded primarily by one-time federal stimulus funds, is another example of the state’s growing effort to lower the cost of education. college for adults and bringing more Californians into college classrooms.

Over the past two years, public funding has increased nearly 50% for the California Student Aid Commission, which oversees most higher education grants to students, to nearly $3.6 billion. This growth includes more tuition and cash support for community college students, middle-class University of California and California State University students, formerly homestay students, students raising children and the Golden State Education Scholarship, among others.

But the Golden State grant’s eligibility rules start where other state and federal grants fall off, extending cash aid to prospective students who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for traditional college financial aid.

The Golden State Grant can cover education programs that are less than about four months in length, which the Federal Pell and State Cal Grant do not. Students receiving the Golden State scholarship can also use the money for extension programs and so-called non-credit programs, such as ESL classes, bicycle repair, and various landscaping certificates. There is no minimum program length for this grant — and because state dollars cover some of the grant costs — undocumented students are also eligible for the $2,500. Anyone receiving the grant should already know which training program they plan to take.

spread the word

To ensure that displaced workers with no college ties also apply, the Student Aid Commission is working with regional workforce councils, the California Workforce Development Board and other agencies to publicize the grant, a said Jake Brymner, director of government relations for the Student Aid Commission.

Grant recipients can also use the funds if they enroll in certain workforce training and apprenticeship programs not affiliated with colleges or universities. The Student Aid Commission is currently reviewing eligible workforce training programs and will soon add them to the approved list on the grant application. Students will only be able to use their grants at California public colleges, universities, and those approved workforce training programs.

During the pilot, when only public colleges and universities were eligible, 84% of scholarship applicants sought training at community colleges, according to data from the Student Aid Commission.

“This specific grant has great potential,” said Daisy Gonzales, acting chancellor of California Community Colleges. “What it does is it provides an entry point to our colleges for students who may not know us.” Students who are not exposed to community colleges may have access to pantries and coordinators who know about other local and state social services that students may qualify for.

She also hopes the grant can help recoup some of the colossal loss of enrollment the system has suffered over the past two years.

The grant can be combined with other student aid

Even though grant recipients are entitled to free tuition, especially at community colleges where nearly half of learners attend for free, they can use the money to cover gas, housing, food, and d ‘other expenses. This is an added benefit for learners who had no spare money to afford an internet connection or other expenses associated with earning a degree.

Muideen Olawoyin was one class away from earning an associate’s degree in social services, a stepping stone to social work. But a string of bad breaks and a long-term injury left him strapped for money.

“I (couldn’t) even afford to access the internet back then, it was so difficult,” he said. When he picked up the Golden State check from his school, Cosumnes River College, he was able to get back online, enroll in that final course, and graduate this summer.

The average income of the roughly 3,000 scholarship recipients was about $22,000 when they first applied, according to California Student Aid Commission data provided to CalMatters.

Some degrees do not increase salaries

However, not all training and education programs are created equal. Some research shows that short-term college certificates—like the type students with this scholarship can enroll in—have a mixed record when it comes to increasing graduates’ earning power.

Overall, these certificates lead to higher salaries, but the non-credit programs pay less than traditional credit certificates. Yet associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees lead to even higher salary gains for graduates, according to a 2020 Urban Institute study. Meanwhile, one-fifth of certificate programs at public colleges and universities lead lower wages than those earned by workers with a high school diploma, a Hechinger Report analysis of national data showed.

California’s foray into short-term degree funding could inform the national conversation about whether to allow federal grants to pay for study under four months. Proponents have been trying to introduce “short-term” Pell grants for a few years, but the idea has yet to convince enough lawmakers.

None of the four Golden State training scholarship recipients CalMatters spoke to were pursuing short-term degrees — all wanted an associate’s degree. McLaughlin, who now works as an accountant for a fencing company, dreams bigger.

Her goal is to transfer to Sacramento State to earn a bachelor’s degree, which her current employer encouraged her to pursue.

“I want people to know that you’re never too old to go to school,” McLaughlin said. “And to never stop trying to achieve your goals.”

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