Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday announced the first organizations to get grant money from the state to help residents looking to get back to work following the coronavirus pandemic.
He spoke at Roxbury Community College, one of the recipients of a grant through the $4.6 million Rapid Reemployment Program. It will support the placement and training of residents who have experienced an employment interruption as a result of the pandemic.
"The evidence shows that exactly these types of programs ... are some of the most successful investments in workforce development that you can make," Baker said.
Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had an unemployment rate of 2.8%. In a few months, it rose to 16.4% -- a loss of nearly 700,000 jobs -- before dropping back to 6.5%, where it stands today, Baker said. Programs like the Rapid Reemployment Program are meant to help return the remaining unemployed to work.
"I certainly believe that Massachusetts and the people here in the commonwealth will find their way out of this pandemic stronger than ever and get back to the point where we have the kind of unemployment numbers that we once had before the pandemic," the governor said.
He was joined by Education Secretary James Peyser, Roxbury Community College President Valerie Robinson and Commonwealth Corporation President Christine Abrams.
"We are so pleased to have this event here today because this is the heart of what we do at [Roxbury Community College]: we get people back to work," Robinson said.
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by 116 Wednesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by five. The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,559 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 662,400.
More than 8.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered in Massachusetts.
That includes nearly 4.3 million first doses and more than 3.6 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There have been more than 260,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
Nearly 3.9 million people have been fully immunized, still short of Baker's goal of 4.1 million people in the state fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week the Baker administration announced that about $3.2 million in grants and contracts have been awarded to community-based organizations to increase awareness and access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the 20 Massachusetts cities and towns hardest hit by the pandemic.
Seven new community-based organizations, community health centers, and behavioral health centers will receive $2.2 million to support vaccine navigation services and customized vaccine administration.
The organizations will help link individuals to vaccination services in the community, and directly administer vaccinations to groups that have not been reached by other outreach efforts.
Those groups include populations that may benefit from one-on-one vaccination support, such as substance use disorder treatment facilities, places of worship, homeless encampments, food pantries and congregate meal locations, LGBTQ community programs, shelters and day programs, and immigrant assistance centers.
An additional $1 million is being awarded to 23 organizations to support efforts to expand vaccine education and awareness that address the specific needs of the indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, and other communities of color within the 20 prioritized communities.