The Department of Labor has awarded $14,837,785 in grants to six states - California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Dakota - to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities as part of the Disability Employment Initiative. The initiative awards grants to help increase the participation of adults and youth with disabilities in existing career pathway systems and other programs that bring together educational insitutions, the private sector and disability advocates. 

Hunger affects millions of children every year in the U.S. and is linked to greater rates of absenteeism and school disciplinary problems. Those behaviors are, in turn, associated with lower academic achievement and greatly increase the chance a child will drop out of school – which comes with a huge price tag for tax payers. 

The Department of Labor announced yesterday in a press release that 11 organizations across nine states have been awarded $50,744,449 in grants to improve federal job training programs through the Workforce Innovation Fund. The grants - ranging from $2.9 to $12 million - were awarded to state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards for the second round of competition under the Fund. During the first round, approximately $171 million in grants were awarded including $147 million for 26 grants in 2012 and $24 million for two Pay for Success grants in 2013. 

The U.S. Dept. of Labor announced Monday that Texas has been awarded $2.8 million to enhance and expand its short-time compensation program (STC), which is designed to help prevent layoffs through “work-sharing”. STC programs are administered through the federal-state unemployment compensation system and allow employers to reduce employee work hours during tough economic times as an alternative to laying them off. Through the STC program, employees who have had their hours reduced receive some percentage of the weekly unemployment benefits that they would have received if they had been completely laid off.  

This session explored what’s in store for your state in 2015 and beyond as experts forecast fiscal and economic trends for states and the nation. The discussion focused on the most significant fiscal and economic issues facing states—such as public pensions, tax reform and ways to foster entrepreneurship—and included insights about how states are tackling similar concerns. 

According to The Institute for Health and Social Policy, 145 of 173 countries mandate paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses. Employers in the U.S. are not required by the federal government to provide paid sick leave to employees, but two states – Connecticut and California – have passed laws that require employers to do so. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 65 percent of civilian employees – private sector and state and local governments – had access to paid sick leave in March 2014.

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Concerned about a steady decline in the proportion of state workers who are disabled, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is ordering agency heads to do more. His executive order also includes a workforce goal — that by 2018, 7 percent of the people employed by Minnesota’s state agencies be individuals with disabilities.

Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) into law which will require employers in the state to provide at least three days of paid sick leave annually for part and full-time workers beginning July 2015. This makes California the second state to pass such a law - Connecticut was the first state to do so in 2011. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office, the new law will provide “paid sick days to the millions of Californians - roughly 40% of the state's workforce - who do not currently earn this benefit”.

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The future of a controversial Indiana “right to work” law (dubbed “right to work for less” by opponents) is now in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court. According to The Indianapolis Star, oral arguments were set to begin in early September. The 2012 law has been ruled unconstitutional by two lower-court state judges. In contrast, it survived a legal challenge in federal court.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—While states across the country have made changes to their public employee retirement plans, some of them have ended up in court for one key reason. “There’s a theme that comes where reform efforts have worked and where they don’t and a lot of them end up getting them challenged in court,” Robert D. Klausner, a partner with a law firm that handles retirement system cases, said during the CSG policy academy, “Accounting for the State of Public Pensions,” Saturday, Aug. 9. “The places where it doesn’t get challenged in court are places where employees have been engaged early in the process.”

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