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Vegas Chamber seeks federal aid for job training

Updated September 18, 2020 - 9:18 am

WASHINGTON — Despite a legislative logjam, the Nevada congressional delegation and Las Vegas business leaders said Thursday they are seeking federal help for retraining and workforce development following the crippling pandemic that has crushed the state’s economy.

Southern Nevada saw an initial unemployment rate of 30 percent in the wake of the pandemic, which has since fallen to 13.2 percent in August, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Business leaders from Las Vegas held their annual meeting with federal officials and lawmakers this week, seeking more aid for small shops and enterprises, as well as workforce development and retraining programs to help businesses stay afloat and help those out of work find new employment.

Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Vegas Chamber, said she talked with every member of the Nevada congressional delegation this week and all of them were “very positive about potential legislation to help with worker retraining.”

Congress is in a stalemate over another coronavirus relief package that could provide more federal financial aid.

Democrats have approved a $3.4 trillion bill that would give nearly $1 trillion to states and cities. A $650 billion plan by Senate Republicans failed to reach the floor for a vote when Democrats objected.

President Donald Trump gave a boost to continued negotiations this week, urging Republicans to support more federal spending than they had proposed with their coronavirus relief package and bolstering the House Democrats’ position on spending.

Nevada was one of the most hard-hit states, economically, when the pandemic struck and forced closure of casinos and entertainment venues, the economic engine in a state dependent on hospitality.

Sewald said the CARES Act passed by Congress this year provided funds for unemployment assistance. The Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses helped Las Vegas storefronts stay open.

“PPP has been a tremendous help for businesses in Nevada,” she said. “More is needed.”

The Vegas Chamber also helped with a pilot program funded by Workforce Connections, Southern Nevada’s Local Development Board, DETR and the Bank of Nevada to help 60 small businesses and nonprofit companies keep 275 employees on the job.

On Friday, the chamber and Gov. Steve Sisolak will participate in the opening of Employ NV Business Hub, a “one-stop shop” to match employers and employees and provide resources to hire and retrain workers and to grow businesses.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., will participate in a virtual business roundtable with Small Businesses for America officials from Southern Nevada.

“Small businesses around the country are suffering from an unprecedented economic disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak,” Horsford said in a statement.

“They are looking to our federal government for a lifeline and we must be there for them,” he said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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