It’s been two months since the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would be giving more than $300 million in CARES Act funding as discretionary grants to states. The goal of the grant programs, according to ED, is to spur innovative learning models in the face of the pandemic and help the country weather what was then a looming economic downturn and is now a full-fledged recession. 

The announcement of the program included two grants — the first, the $180 million Rethink K-12 Education Models program, had details immediately available; but the second, $127 million in Reimagine Workforce Preparation grants to fund short-term pathways to jobs, would be forthcoming.

Now, almost two months later (and after significant curiosity from the higher education community) the details are finally out, with the full notice going live on June 23. Here’s what you need to know about the long-awaited program:

  • $127.5 million available through CARES Act funding, which the Department estimates will be awarded through 8-9 grants ranging from $5 million to $20 million. 

  • The program is intended to help states with the highest COVID-19 burden expand short term training pathways that lead to work. The burden is calculated based on percent of population without broadband access, initial unemployment insurance claims filed, and percent share of confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000.

  • Importantly, and one point of particular interest for many trying to learn about the program: the lead applicant must be a state workforce board. State workforce boards can partner with employers, colleges and universities, or trade associations.

  • The program has two different absolute priorities:

    • The first is creating and expanding short-term programs that lead to jobs.  The Department notes this can include badges, licenses, and other workforce relevant credentials, which are a part of the nearly 500,000 non-degree credentials in the United States. The Department is requiring that credentials must be made accessible and transparent to the public, through resources like Credential Engine’s credential transparency description language.

    • The second priority is developing small business incubators in collaboration with colleges and universities.  

  • State workforce boards have until July 13 to give notice of intent to apply, with applications due on August 24. Awards will be made by October.

Whiteboard Advisors will continue to monitor this grant program and all CARES Act education related funding.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.