Labor Department Awards $6.7M to Help Fight COVID-19 in Workplaces

Labor Department Awards $6.7M to Help Fight COVID-19 in Workplaces a coronavirus face mask lays on a red table (Dreamstime)

By Charles Kim | Wednesday, 08 September 2021 11:04 PM

The United States Department of Labor announced Wednesday it is awarding some $6.7 million from the $1.9 trillion America Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed earlier this year, in grants to 37 nonprofit organizations to aid in educating and training workers and employers to recognize infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The grants will fund programs, according to a press release from the agency, that will help workplaces recognize infectious diseases and health hazards that could spread COVID as well as develop prevention measures to keep workers safe on the job.

It will also ensure workers are aware of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which created OSHA.

The grants come from the Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program, named after a former director, that headed OSHA's Office of Risk Assessment for 17 years.

"The program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor-management associations, colleges and universities," the release read. "Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. These grants are a critical element in supporting OSHA's role in educating workers on their rights and assisting employers with providing safe workplaces."

Recipients of the grants are spread out throughout the country and include $200,000 to the AFSCME Training and Education Institute in Washington, D.C., that will provide 2-30 hours of COVID training to 1,457 employers and workers in healthcare and social assistance industries, $200,000 to the AgriSafe Network in Peosta, Iowa, that will provide an hour of COVID training to 600 employers, which will include contact tracing to prevent the spread of diseases in agriculture.

Other states that have organizations receiving the grants include: New York, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, California, Alabama, Ohio, Washington State, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Florida, among others.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

OSHA's role is to help ensure these conditions for America's workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance, according to the agency.

In addition to these program grants, the American Rescue Plan Act also extended unemployment benefits for those displaced by the pandemic until earlier this month, as well as approving one-time $1,400 payments for individuals.